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The Art of Followership

I am currently enrolled in a class at the University of Oklahoma called the Importance of Followership.  It has been a great experience and the reading has really been quite challenging.  The Art of Followership is a book that we are currently reading.  The chapters of the book are from presenters that were present at a Followership Conference several year ago and the writers are among the top of the field in Followership-Leadership studies.  Grounded beneath the book is the work of Ira Chaleff and his book The Courageous Follower, which I will be reading next month.

What I want to do here today is lay out a few of my favorite principles from the chapter entitled Getting Together by Gene Dixon.  This was one of my favorite chapters in the book.  Dixon is an engineer who has found himself within the organizational leadership field.  Dixon’s chapter is about the relationship between the leader and the follower and how these roles can coexist within an individual at any level in the organization.  What I most love about these principles for great followership is how they help leaders with a clear vision for follower expectations, what to build within those they work with and what to look for in others.  Why try to make everyone a “Great Man” type leader when the Bible is clear that we were each made for different purposes.  There should not just be a plurality of leadership but a plurality to the people involved in what it takes to make a great organization.

The five unique behaviors that lead to courageous followers are:

  • The courage to assume responsibility
  • The courage to serve
  • The courage to challenge
  • The courage to participate in transformation
  • The courage to take moral action

Are you allowing the people in your organization the places and spaces needed to live these things out?  In which ones are you excelling and in which are you failing?  Imagine if you had self-starting follower-leaders who knew where the organization was headed, looked for the next steps to achieve the mission, took those steps and even found ways to lighten your load so that you could spend more time proclaiming the mission.  Does your organizational culture celebrate courageous followership?

Three of Dixon’s parts to the Leader-Follower Relationship that he believes can be built by creating a culture where there is space for a dual leadership-followership role are a greater commitment to purpose, shared values and elevated feelings of trust.  Do you have people working WITH you or FOR you?

Again, this is a great read.  How have you encountered followership within your organization?  What makes a great follower?