Volume 13, Issue 4 – Special 2014

 The author shares with us, that this remarkable collection of papers sounds its own clarion call announcing two important milestones: First, followers need not resort to revolution to emerge from the faceless mass; and, second, the field of followership, with a growing community of serious scholars, is not only alive and well, but experiencing a definite “adolescent growth spurt.”

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Introduction by Guest Editor, Rob Koonce.

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In the fall of 1966, a small and informal group of wives whose husbands were classified as Prisoner of War (POW) or Missing in Action (MIA) formed a small and informal group. By December 12, 1969, this group of women had gained such power, influence, and a multitude of disparate followers that twenty-six met with President and Mrs. Pat Nixon at the White House. In part, the POW/MIA story is about a small group of women taking a decisive role to change the United States POW/MIA policy, accentuate the plight of the prisoners, and demand humane treatment by Hanoi—all in a national and global arena.

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A transcript of the opening remarks of the Proceedings of the 2014 International Followership Symposium

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This paper uses a western theoretical foundation of followership as a framework for a limited, empirically-derived perspective of Russian followers. The author argues for the importance of new cultural research by which Western theories may be reevaluated and a new understanding established of Russian followership. A rationale for research on Russian followership is also proposed.

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This paper briefly reviews the historical limitations of research on leadership in an effort to avoid these same pitfalls in the study of followers and followership. In particular, research on leadership has been overly leader-centric, and research on followership should avoid simply “reversing the lens” and focusing exclusively on followers. Specific issues addressed include discussion of the appropriate term to identify followers and the intertwined nature of leaders and followers in the co-production of leadership. Finally, suggestions are made for guiding future research on followership.

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This paper reports the preliminary findings of an exploratory study which investigates the followership of longstanding, classroom-based school teachers working in the UK secondary education sector. Using Gronn’s (1999) educational leadership formation model as a frame of reference, the study employs a multiple case study methodology with data collected using semistructured biographical interviews and Kelley’s (1992) followership questionnaire. Focusing on those individuals that have not embraced a formal leadership or management role as part of their teaching career (teacher-followers), the study investigates how these teachers follow and how the characteristics of their life and career have influenced their followership journey. The preliminary findings indicate that followership is characterised by two of Kelley’s five classifications, i.e., pragmatic and exemplary followers. Further, the reported experiences and influences of the teacher-followers in the formative stages of their career are aligned with those reported for teacher-leaders (Ribbins, 1997; Gronn, 1999; Inman, 2007; Mackensie-Batterbury, 2012). Finally, self-belief and confidence; opportunity to lead; and pragmatism are reported as differentiating factors in shaping the nature of the career journeys of the teacher-followers engaged in this study.

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The U.S. Army has been fighting the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq for over 10 years and in the process produced a new military doctrine called mission command. Mission command doctrine was conceived from a wartime environment to allow followers in the field to act according to the dictates of the situation on the ground, giving them maximum discretion. The concept of mission command fits nicely into followership research and theory. For a military widely dispersed both by geography and mission, this concept represents an effective way to empower followers and encourage them to take initiative and accept prudent risk. Mission command doctrine expects officers and exemplary followers to be courageous. It requires them to act on their own, be wise in assuming risk, be actively engaged in executing the commander’s intent, and find multiple ways and options to accomplish the mission. Since mission command is a philosophy born of our recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the question remains of how this philosophy will fare in an inter-war period of forced reductions, downsizing, and substantial budget reductions.

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Leadership research is plentiful and multifaceted yet followership, an essential component in leadership, attracts little research attention. This research paper measures followership styles in two cultural contexts: American and Rwandan. Although cultural aspects of followership have been studied to some extent, the literature in this area is lacking. Data are collected from two organizations of similar size and function, one in Rwanda, and the other in Oregon, USA. It is hypothesized that Americans’ cultural preferences influence followers to favor critical thinking and active engagement while Rwandan cultural preferences predispose followers to less critical thinking and less active engagement. Results of the research show no significant difference between the cultures on critical thinking and active engagement. However, followership type is significantly different by country. Kelley’s (1992) followership survey and the organizational contexts are probed for possible reasons that no significant differences were found between critical thinking and active engagement, while power distance is seen as the main reason for the difference in followership type. Presently little research has been dedicated to the cultural effects on followership and organizations that work internationally would benefit greatly from a deeper understanding of cultural effects on followership.

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Moral disengagement answers the question of why “good” followers (those with high personal standards) go “bad” (engage in unethical and illegal activities). In moral disengagement, actors set aside the self-condemnation they would normally experience in order to engage in immoral activities with a clear conscience. Moral disengagement mechanisms encourage individuals to justify harmful behavior, to minimize personal responsibility for harm, and to devalue victims. The follower role makes individuals more vulnerable to moral disengagement. While all followers are susceptible to moral disengagement, some are more vulnerable than others due to such personal antecedents as lack of empathy, rigid and authoritarian beliefs, low self-esteem, and fear and anxiety. Retaining a sense of moral agency is the key to resisting moral disengagement. Exercise of moral agency can be encouraged by recognizing personal vulnerability; by never losing sight of the fact that “I” am at the center of any action, and by the on-going practice of self-questioning, such as modeled by the Quakers (Society of Friends).

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The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), an independent agency of the U.S. Federal government, has been instructing employees in the tenants of followership since 2009. As part of a multi-pronged approach to create a more empowered workforce and enhance trust in leadership, instruction in followership has helped to raise the FDIC from the bottom third on the best places to work in the Federal government to first place. This paper examines teaching the tenants of followership as an integral part of building individual competency in leading oneself and fostering an organizational culture of shared leadership.

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The followership field remains overshadowed by the leadership field, with traditional assumptions attached to the follower concept further undervaluing the importance of progressive understandings of leadership. This paper considers following as a relational process and provides illustrative extracts from empirical research. Future areas for research are discussed, as well as the importance of incorporating followership into the leadership education agenda.

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With increasing acceptance of followership as a counterpart of leadership, the study of followership within graduate-level leadership and business curricula should be equally considered. Further, an understanding of andragogy, or adult education theory, is of benefit with the inclusion of creativity within a followership curriculum. By developing creative capacity within followership education, graduate students are better equipped to influence the business world with innovative thinking skills that enhance problem solving in an increasingly competitive work environment.

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Theories of collaboration exist at the interfirm and intergroup level, but not the intragroup or team level. Team interactions are often framed in terms of leadership and followership, a categorization which may, or may not, accurately reflect the dynamics of intragroup interactions. To create a grounded theory of collaboration, the Farmer’s Exercise was given to groups of students, their interactions were recorded and post-exercise interviews of participants and observers were done. From a detailed analysis of the recordings and interviews a grounded theory of collaboration was developed. Two broad categories of collaborative behavior formed the frame of the theory that we call Collaborative Theory (CT). The first category, Individual First, is composed of three causal themes: turn-taking, observing or doing, and status seeking. The second category, Team First, also has three causal themes: influencing others, organizing work, and building group cohesion. This second theme can be identified with managerial and leadership action but we argue that it need not. Although this is a preliminary study subject to further validation and testing, CT already identifies collaborative behaviors that shed new light on intragroup interactions.

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Scholars frequently address the dyadic relationships between leaders and followers without observing the simultaneity of leadership and followership roles, particularly evident in middle managers. Their implicit and explicit challenges are the foci of this paper.

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The concept of civic engagement, defined independently of engagement in political, social, or vocational organizations connects the parallel concept of followership to civic engagement with two kinds of follower motivation emerging: mission-oriented and leaderoriented. The mission-driven follower “owns” the cause and supports it with an ongoing, sustainable energy, while the leader-driven follower participates based on esteem for the leader. In the latter case, the leader must continually renew the follower’s engagement through direct requests and exhortation. This research has identified an area of emergent opportunity in the leadership and followership literature, conceptualizing civic engagement as most significantly motivated by mission-driven followership. Practically, mission-driven followers should be sought out and encouraged to volunteer because they support the mission and are more likely to stay with the organization through leadership changes. Theoretically, the addition of a quantitative analysis of mission-driven and leader-driven followership contributes to the emerging scholarship on followership.

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