Matching Followership and Leadership Styles | My Assignment Tutor

A Fresh Look at Followership:A Model for Matching Followership and Leadership StylesKent BjugstadComcast SpotlightElizabeth C. Thach, Karen J. Thompson, and Alan MorrisSonoma State UniversityABSTRACTFollowership has been an understudied topic in the academic literature and anunderappreciated topic among practitioners. Although it has always beenimportant, the study of followership has become even more crucial with theadvent of the information age and dramatic changes in the workplace. Thispaper provides a fresh look at followership by providing a synthesis of theliterature and presents a new model for matching followership styles toleadership styles. The model’s practical value lies in its usefulness for describinghow leaders can best work with followers, and how followers can best work withleaders.IntroductionFollowership has been an understudied discipline. As far back as 1933,management scholar Mary Parker Follett advocated more research into a topicthat she stated was “of the utmost importance, but which has been far too littleconsidered, and that’s the part of followers…” (1949, p. 41). The lack ofattention in researching followers has changed little since Follett delivered hercall to arms over 70 years ago. While some scholars are beginning to look moreclosely at followership, this trend is less evident in the mainstream businessworld. A book search on the website revealed 95,220 titlesdevoted to leadership (Bjugstad, 2004). Bjugstad’s search on followership foundjust 792 titles, and the majority of those books focused on either spiritual orpolitical followership. Overall, the ratio of leadership to followership books was120:1. The lack of research and emphasis on followership relative to leadershipin the business world is ironic considering that the two are so intertwined.One of the reasons followers haven’t been researched is that there is a stigmaassociated with the term “follower.” Followership may be defined as the ability toeffectively follow the directives and support the efforts of a leader to maximize astructured organization. However, the term “followership” is often linked tonegative and demeaning words like passive, weak, and conforming. Accordingto Alcorn (1992), followers have been systematically devalued and, for many, thevery word itself conjures up unfavorable images. This stereotype has causedpeople to avoid being categorized as followers. Research done by Williams andMiller (2002) on more than 1,600 executives across a wide range of industriesindicated that over one-third of all executives are followers in some fashion. Yet,rarely did any of the executives concede that they were followers. The statement© 2006 Institute of Behavioral and Applied Management. All Rights Reserved. 304“Always be a leader, never a follower!” has gone a long way toward adding to thestigma of being a follower.Another reason there is so little research on followership arises from amisconception that leadership is more important than followership. Theassumption that good followership is simply doing what one is told, and thateffective task accomplishment is the result of good leadership, doesn’t amplifythe merits of the follower role. According to Meindl (1987), management andorganizational behavior have been dominated by the concept of leadership,which has assumed a romanticized, larger than life role as a result.Organizational literature is full of studies of leadership characteristics, reflectingthe belief that good or bad leadership largely explains organizational outcomes.In spite of its obvious relevance to leadership, followership is rarely discussedwhen corporations seek to better themselves. Instead, the focus turns todeveloping leadership skills. Much attention is paid to what makes a leadersuccessful because the thinking is that as the leader succeeds, so does theorganization. However, this view ignores the fact that leaders need followers toaccomplish their goals.It does seem ironic that the effectiveness of a leader is to a great extentdependent on the willingness and consent of the followers. Without followers,there can be no leaders. Indeed, Hansen (1987) advanced that activefollowership means the leader’s authority has been accepted which giveslegitimacy to the direction and vision of the leader. Without the eyes, ears,minds, and hearts of followers, leaders cannot function effectively. Similarly,Depree (1992) asserted that leaders only really accomplish something bypermission of the followers.Changes in the workplace also highlight the need for examining followership inmore depth. The traditional organizational hierarchy between leaders and theirfollowers has eroded over time thanks to expanding social networks and thegrowing empowerment of followers through their ability to access informationmore easily (Cross & Parker, 2004; Brown, 2003). For example, employees nowhave access to information about their company and its competitors via theInternet that they were never privy to in the past. As Brown (2003) observed,leaders are “no longer the exclusive source of vital information about theircompanies or fields; therefore they can no longer expect to be followed blindly bytheir now well-informed, more skeptical ranks” (p. 68). Furthermore, theincidents at such companies as Enron, WorldCom, and Adelphia have ledfollowers to question and distrust top leadership. Mergers, acquisitions, anddownsizing have also accounted for more jaded followers. In addition, Maccoby(2004) stated that “the changing structure of families – more single-parenthomes, dual working parents, and so on – have begun to create workenvironments where people value traditional leaders less” (p. 79). Perhaps thiscoincides with the decline in respect for authority figures in general. Whateverthe reason, these changes signal the need to reevaluate the tendency to focuson leadership to the exclusion of followership.© 2006 Institute of Behavioral and Applied Management. All Rights Reserved. 305Many leaders have realized that developing their followers’ skills is critical forcreating high performance organizations. These developmental approachescome with a variety of names – total quality management, team building, qualityof work life, job enrichment, reengineering, empowerment, management byobjectives, etc. Lawrence and Nohria (2002) stated that organizations that fail todevelop their workforces may not be competitive in the future. As the cost ofintellectual capital increases, it is critical to have a supply of talented followers(Citrin, 2002). The old saying, “People are our most important asset” has neverbeen more true.While the industrial age was characterized by a rigid command-and-controlstructure, the advent of the information age has highlighted the need for moreflexible leader-follower relationships. These changes have made the study offollowership increasingly necessary as organizations seek new ways to select,train, and lead followers for maximum productivity. Flexibility is a key ingredientfor both leaders and followers when it comes to their overall approach to work.This paper aims to reignite the dialogue on followership and provide somepractical applications of followership. First, we will review the current literatureon followership. Then, we will acquaint the reader with two current models: oneof followership and one of leadership. Finally, these distinct models will be usedas the basis for a new hybrid model that integrates leadership styles andfollowership styles. This integrated model proposes how leaders and followerscan best work together.Review of the Followership LiteratureThe literature on followership can be categorized into three broad theoreticalareas. These areas examine follower motivations, follower values and trust, andthe characteristics of effective and ineffective followers.Follower MotivationsA follower’s motivation is a function of environmental and internal factors. Toincrease follower motivation, a company needs to create a results-orientedenvironment with genuine concern for its followers and provide performancerelated feedback. Today’s follower-leader relationships show that followers wanttrust and are not motivated by what leaders think they would want, but rather bywhat each specific follower wants (Bain, 1982). According to Hughes (1998),followers motivate themselves. Motivation is generated internally, and a leadermerely taps into the internal power of the follower. When a leader communicatestrust and respect for followers’ abilities to perform and achieve, the internalmotivation of the followers takes over and drives them to succeed. Followersdetermine their commitment to the organization (and therefore their motivation)by reflecting on how hard they will work, what type of recognition or reward theymight receive, and if that reward will be worth it (Strebel, 1996).Motivation may also depend on the relationship between the follower and leaderand how well their personal characteristics match up. If there is a similarity in© 2006 Institute of Behavioral and Applied Management. All Rights Reserved. 306values and beliefs between the follower and leader, the motivational need forempowerment may not be as high because the follower is driven by the bondwith the leader (Mumford, Dansereau, & Yammarino, 2000). The research oncharismatic leadership suggests that followers’ self-concepts may also berelevant in determining their motivations to follow certain leaders (Howell andShamir, 2005).A key to motivating followers is the concept of having them realize how importanttheir function is in a broad sense. Blanchard and Bowles (1998) relate the storyof what was considered a meaningless job – dishwashing at a college cafeteria:“Dishwashing in a college cafeteria – it just doesn’t get moreimportant than that…think of the impact those students weregoing to have on the world. Business leaders, doctors,social scientists, world leaders, researchers. One load ofunclean, bacteria-infected dishes could have wiped out awhole class. Look at it in terms of human impact…Studentsarrived tired, hungry, and likely lonely. You were animportant part of the chain that provided joy andnourishment… What a wonderful gift to give another humanbeing…” (p. 33).Of course, some followers are motivated primarily by ambition. According toKelley (1988), this type of person only uses followership to further his or her ownambitions.Springboarding off of Vroom’s expectancy theory (1964), Green (2000)discussed three conditions that must exist for followers to be highly motivated.First, they must have the confidence that they can do the job expected of them.Then, trust is needed in their leader to tie outcomes to performance. Lastly, thefollowers need satisfaction with the outcome(s) they receive. If performance fallsshort, there is a good probability that one of these three conditions is not beingfully met. Common causes for a follower’s lack of confidence (“I can’t do it”)could be inadequate skills, or unrealistic or unclear expectations. More trainingand the clarification of expectations are two ways to handle these problems.Tying outcomes to performance can easily solve the second condition. If theoutcomes aren’t satisfying to followers because they aren’t finding the work itselfrewarding, it might be worth investigating whether that position is matching theskills, interests, and needs of both the follower and the leader.Follower Values and TrustValues are instrumental in determining follower preferences for different types ofleaders. Followers’ values, in addition to other personal characteristics, caninfluence both their own effectiveness and the climate in which they work(Hanges, Offerman, & Day, 2001). Followers and leaders work together betterwhen they are comfortable with each other, and value congruence is one way toachieve common ground. When leaders effectively model their values, identity,emotions, and goals to their followers, the potential for authentic followershipincreases (Gardner et al., 2005).© 2006 Institute of Behavioral and Applied Management. All Rights Reserved. 307Along these lines, Ehrhart and Klein (2001) examined the follower-leaderrelationship to determine the influence of values and personality. The resultsindicated that (1) followers had different responses to the same leader behaviors,and (2) followers looked for leaders whose values matched their own. Followerswho were achievement-oriented and risk takers preferred the charismatic leader,as did followers who liked to participate in decision making. According to Ehrhartand Klein, charismatic leaders helped followers satisfy their need for involvementand accomplishment by letting followers take an active role in decision making.Followers who valued interpersonal relations matched up with relationshiporiented leaders who could meet some of their interpersonal needs. Followerswho valued achievement and structure were the best match for task-orientedleaders, because they provided stability and security.The foundation of a productive follower-leader relationship is mutual trust. In ahealthy organization, followers trust leaders to act in their best interest. In athree-year survey of 7,500 workers, Froggatt (2001) found that companies withemployees who reported high levels of trust in their leaders had a 108 percentthree-year return to shareholders. Conversely, companies with employeesreporting low trust levels in leadership only had a 66 percent return.Effective Followers versus Ineffective FollowersA few researchers have examined the characteristics of followers in an attempt topinpoint what distinguishes good followers from bad ones. Kelley (1988)proposed that there are four essential qualities that effective followers share.First, effective followers manage themselves well. This quality refers to theability to determine one’s own goals within a large context and to decide whatrole to take at any given time. Secondly, effective followers are committed to theorganization and to a purpose beyond themselves. Thirdly, effective followersbuild their competence and focus their efforts for maximum impact. They striveto reach higher levels of performance and expand themselves. Finally, effectivefollowers are courageous, honest, and credible. This implies and requiresindependent and critical thinking skills as well as the ability to feel comfortablewith others. Kelley also stated that an effective follower exhibits enthusiasm,intelligence, and self-reliance.One of the most important characteristics of an effective follower may be thewillingness to tell the truth. As the quantity of available information has increasedexponentially, it has become imperative that followers provide truthful informationto their leaders. Good followers speak up even to the point of disagreeing withtheir leaders. According to Bennis (2000), the irony is that the follower who isencouraged and is willing to speak out shows what kind of leadership thecompany has instituted. This tendency to speak up was also supported inresearch of followership and federal workers (Gilbert & Hyde, 1988). Not only isit important for the organization to know what followers think, but effectiveleaders also need to respect followers who will speak up and share their points ofview rather than withhold information. Ineffective followers fail to give honestopinions. They cover up problems and are inclined to become ‘yes men.’ If a© 2006 Institute of Behavioral and Applied Management. All Rights Reserved. 308company is going down the wrong road, it can get there faster if there are nofollowers informing the leaders that they took a wrong turn.Chaleff (1995) claims that effective followers are cooperative and collaborative,qualities that are essential to all human progress. They think for and managethemselves and carry out duties with assertiveness and energy. For example,championship-level sports teams are composed of followers who know when tofollow the game plan and when to innovate and think for themselves. Effectivefollowers are well-balanced and responsible human resources who can succeedwithout strong leadership because they are committed to a purpose, principle, orperson outside themselves. Kelley’s (1988) research also found that manyfollowers believe they offer as much value to organizations as leaders do.Effective followers are distinguishable from ineffective followers by theirenthusiasm and self-reliant participation in the pursuit of organizational goals.According to Blackshear (2003), “the ‘ideal’ follower is willing and able to helpdevelop and sustain the best organizational performance” (p. 25). Ineffectivefollowers are often critical, cynical, apathetic, and alienated; many will only dowhat is specifically requested of them. Instead of figuring out what they can do,ineffective followers focus on what can go wrong and what is beyond their control(Helmstetter, 1998). They tend to doubt themselves and, because they dwell onproblems rather than solutions, they most often see their fears materialize.According to Nelson (2001), they become experts at the “the blame game,”blaming everybody around them for problems. These attitudes gradually spreadto other departments, and the result is low morale, lack of production, and losthuman potential (Ludin & Lancaster, 1990).Models of Followership and LeadershipTo bring together the research on followership and leadership, a model waschosen from each area. The first model is Kelley’s (1992) followership modelwhich categorizes followers according to dimensions of thinking and acting. Thesecond model is drawn from Hersey and Blanchard’s (1982) situationalleadership theory which categorizes leadership style based on the degree ofrelationship-oriented and task-oriented behavior displayed by the leader.Kelley’s Model of FollowershipKelley (1992) categorized followers according to the dimensions of thinking andacting. Followers who are independent, critical thinkers consider the impact oftheir actions, are willing to be creative and innovative, and may offer criticism.Dependent, uncritical thinkers only do what they are told and accept the leader’sthinking. The second dimension, acting, is used to determine what sense ofownership the follower demonstrates. An active follower takes initiative indecision making, while a passive follower’s involvement is limited to being toldwhat to do. Despite the fact that Kelley created five different subsets of followerswith the fifth subset (pragmatists) encompassing some of the characteristics ofthe other four, this analysis will only use the standard four-quadrant subset based© 2006 Institute of Behavioral and Applied Management. All Rights Reserved. 309on Kelley’s definitions (Figure 1). This will enable the use of clear-cut distinctionsbetween follower types.The following is a summary of the behavioral characteristics of the four followertypes (from Kelley, 1992):Alienated followers are mavericks who have a healthy skepticism of theorganization. They are capable, but cynical.Conformist followers are the “yes people” of the organizations. They are veryactive at doing the organization’s work and will actively follow orders.Passive followers rely on leaders to do the thinking for them. They also requireconstant direction.Exemplary followers are independent, innovative, and willing to questionleadership. This type of follower is critical to organizational success. Exemplaryfollowers know how to work well with other cohorts and present themselvesconsistently to all who come into contact with them.Figure 1: Kelley’s different types of followersSource: Kelley (1992)Independent, critical thinkingPassive ActiveDependent, uncritical thinkingThis model may seem to impose some artificial rigidity on follower behavior, butfollowers typically can move from one quadrant to another just as leaders’ stylescan vary depending on the situation. It is typical to think of leaders as having adominant style, and we will assume that to be true for followers also.© 2006 Institute of Behavioral and Applied Management. All Rights Reserved. 310Hersey and Blanchard’s Situational Leadership TheoryHersey and Blanchard’s (1982) situational leadership theory argued thatsuccessful leadership is achieved by selecting a style based on followerreadiness. The leader is directed to adopt one of four styles based on thedegree of relationship- and task-oriented behavior required by the situation. Forthe purposes of this paper, the four styles will be viewed as static within thequadrants of this two dimensional model, although they are often treated as acontinuum of sorts (Figure 2). The four leadership styles consist of Telling,Selling, Participating, and Delegating.The following is a summary of the four leadership styles developed by Herseyand Blanchard (Hersey, 1984):Telling should be used in situations in which followers lack the training,confidence, or desire to complete a task. The theory recommends that taskoriented leader behaviors should predominate in this case. Leaders need todirect followers down the right path by giving them detailed directions andmonitoring their performance.Selling is the style to use with followers who are confident and willing, but whoare not able to complete the task. High levels of both task- and relationshiporiented behaviors are recommended in this situation. Leaders can guidefollower behavior by clarifying decisions and giving followers the chance to askquestions.Participating should be used to boost the motivation of followers who have thecapabilities to achieve goals, but who lack confidence in themselves.Relationship-oriented leadership predominates in this case. Leaders encouragefollowers to participate in decisions and support their efforts.Delegating is the style to use when followers are able, confident, and motivated.Only low levels of relationship- and task-oriented behaviors are called for in thiscase as the follower is so self-directed. The leader can turn over responsibility tothe follower in terms of what to do and how to do it.© 2006 Institute of Behavioral and Applied Management. All Rights Reserved. 311Figure 2: Hersey and Blanchard’s Situational Leadership QuadrantsSource: Hersey and Blanchard (1982)Low Æ Æ Æ Æ Æ High ParticipatingSellingDelegatingTelling Relationship behaviorTask behaviorLow Æ Æ Æ Æ Æ High© 2006 Institute of Behavioral and Applied Management. All Rights Reserved. 312An Integrated Model of Followership and Leadership StylesThe final goal in this paper is to integrate the two models described above. Theidea is to show how followership and leadership research can be combined forpractical purposes, most specifically to increase follower productivity. Simplyoverlaying Kelley’s four quadrants from Figure 1 onto Hersey and Blanchard’smodel in Figure 2 doesn’t provide maximum productivity because a passivefollower will not excel with a delegating leader. Along those same lines, anexemplary follower does not need a selling type of leader. By interchangingthese two quadrants, however, as shown in Figure 3, the roles of both the leaderand the follower can be maximized.Figure 3: Integrated model of followership and leadership stylesLow Æ Æ Æ Æ Æ HighThe participating style, in which a leader shares ideas and facilitates the decisionmaking process, seems to fit best with alienated followers. The idea is to getthese disillusioned followers to take a more active role, so they feel moreinvolved in the organization. Alienated followers are capable, but need moreconsideration to create mutual respect and trust and to eliminate some of theircynicism. The selling style is arguably a good match for the passive follower,who needs direction and guidance. With the leader’s support, passive followerscan enhance their production, as well as receive encouragement. Conformistfollowers with their “will do as told” attitude can be placed in the telling stylequadrant, which characterizes a leadership style that focuses on providingspecific instructions and closely monitoring performance. Exemplary followerscan be positioned in the delegating style quadrant where the leader turns overRelationship behavior ParticipatingSellingDelegatingTelling Low Æ Æ Æ Æ Æ HighTask behavior© 2006 Institute of Behavioral and Applied Management. All Rights Reserved. 313responsibility for decisions and implementation. Exemplary followers are up tothe challenge of this category and should flourish to the benefit of theorganization. By meshing the styles of leaders and followers, organizations canmaximize the strengths and minimize the weaknesses of leader-followerrelationships. Figure 4 displays recommended behaviors for leaders andfollowers in each quadrant of the new model.Followership plays a vital role at every level of an organization. Furthering theeffectiveness of followers requires doing away with the misconception thatleaders do all of the thinking and followers merely carry out commands. Thesemisconceptions can become self-fulfilling prophecies and organizations can relytoo much on leaders. This model provides the framework to alleviate thosemisconceptions. As the model indicates, followers engage in different levels ofcritical thinking, and these can be matched with appropriate leaders.Furthermore, in each quadrant, there needs to be some flexibility for both theleader and the follower. This stretching will cause growth for the individuals andfor the organization.Figure 4: Behaviors recommended for optimum matching of styles LeadershipQuadrantLeader BehaviorsRecommendedFollower BehaviorsRecommendedFollowershipQuadrantParticipatingThe inclusion offollowers in decisionmaking to causealienated followers totake ownershipBecoming moreinvolved throughparticipation.Changing insider vs.outsider mindset.AlienatedSellingExplaining decisionsand clarifyingexpectations toengage passivefollowers.Doing as requested.PassiveTellingDetailingexpectations andmonitoringperformance to directconformist followers.Showing that resultsare important.ConformistDelegatingTurning overdecision makingresponsibility andimplementation.Demonstratingresults withincreasedresponsibility.Exemplary © 2006 Institute of Behavioral and Applied Management. All Rights Reserved. 314Discussion and ApplicationAs we have seen, the follower-leader relationship does not operate in a vacuum.Leaders sometimes function as followers, and followers sometimes function asleaders. As leaders daily move back and forth between the two roles, this makesit even more imperative that the study of followership continues. Followers andleaders are linked together in interrelated roles and are dependent on each other.Clearly, the importance of followers cannot be underestimated. Whileorganizations continue to devote time and money to the development ofleadership, followership is what enables that leadership the opportunity tosucceed. The legendary UCLA basketball coach, John Wooden, is quoted byBuckingham and Coffman (1999) as saying…“No matter how you total success in the coaching profession, it all comes downto a single factor – talent. There may be a hundred great coaches of whom youhave never heard…who will never receive the acclaim they deserve simplybecause they have not been blessed with the talent. Although not every coachcan win consistently with talent, no coach can win without it” (p. 105).This passage speaks about team sports, but the theme of “talent” is analogous tofollowers in an organization. Creating the right environment and developingfollowers into high performers should be a primary objective of everyorganization. This argument is supported by research that has examinedfollower effectiveness in relation to situational favorability (Miller, Butler, andCosentino, 2004). Building relations with followers fosters the highest level oforganizational commitment (Ellis, 2004), which helps to create a unifiedorganization. Also, organizational commitment is positively related to jobproductivity and negatively related to both absenteeism and turnover (Robbins,2005).The integrated model of followership and leadership styles can be applied andmatched to fit different organizational cultures and goals. Organizations maytend to have certain predominant leader and/or follower types, and so thespecific organization will have to fit the two types together. It may be useful fororganizations to experiment with the differences between the various types ofleader and follower for short periods of time to observe productivity levels. Oncethat information has been analyzed, it should guide future research on how bestto continue matching leader and follower styles. The optimal way to test how theintegrated model would benefit the organization is to conduct the research in acontrolled environment where all the variables are equal. This application of themodel can then be better examined for the appropriate matching of particularstyles. There may be an instance, for example, where a follower with dominantconformist characteristics might be more productive with a leader who exhibitsstrong selling attributes, instead of the traits of a telling leadership style. Themodel is flexible enough to allow for adjustments in the match-ups of followersand leaders.© 2006 Institute of Behavioral and Applied Management. All Rights Reserved. 315Limitations of the ModelWhile this integrated model of followership and leadership styles makes sensefrom an intuitive standpoint, there is little evidence to support it. Research willneed to be done to test its propositions. Also, while leaders and followers oftenhave a dominant style, they do not tend to use one style in all situations. Thus,the environment can skew the results of the quadrant match-ups that wepropose. Furthermore, the matching of leaders and followers does not imply thatleaders will only hire followers who work and think in their own image to makethem feel more comfortable (Chatman, 1991). It does, however, raise thepossibility of groupthink (Janis, 1982). Having either differing viewpoints orsimilar styles, however, has not revealed any consistent effects on performance(Lau & Murnighan, 1998). With that in mind, this model needs to be implementedand studied further to validate the projected increase in productivity.Another issue in the future study of matching followers to leaders is to isolate thevariables that might alter the results. For example, will all leaders be given thesame type of direction in working with followers and vice-versa? All of thisresearch can come at a cost to organizations that are not willing to risk possibleshort-term pains for long-term gains.CONCLUSIONThis paper and the matching of followership and leadership styles reinforcethemes identified in the literature on the relationships between followers andleaders (Cole, 1999; Goffee & Jones, 2001; Chaleff, 1995; Ehrhart & Klein, 2001;Cunningham & MacGregor, 2000; Hanges et al., 2001; Mumford et al., 2000). Byimplementing an integrated model of followership and leadership styles, as wellas linking the purpose to strategic organizational goals, leaders should becomemore effective because of their improved understanding of the follower-leaderrelationship. In addition, the increased commitment of followers should result ina talent bank for future leaders as followers are mentored by the leader inlearning to match styles in working relationships. 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