Early researchers did not assign an active role to followership but did argue that the perceptions and preferences of the follower determined the effectiveness of the leader (Meindl J. R., 2007). This type of argument led to more follower-centered research (Oc & Bashshur, 2013), although as will be discussed, that research is mostly anecdotal at best (Northouse, 2019). Northouse defined followership as a “process whereby an individual or individuals accept the influence of others to accomplish a common goal” (Northouse, 2019), once again drawing on the concept of the common goal. Typically, in this relationship, followers must cede a portion of their control to the leader (Northouse, 2019) for leadership and followership to even happen. We can further place followership into two broad categories.
The first category is role-based followership. The second is relational based followership (Northouse, 2019). Role-based followership occurs when the leader and follower’s role within an organization or activity with which they are engaged (Northouse, 2019). Relational-based followership is co-created based on the relationship the leader and follower have (Northouse, 2019). Relational-based followership is based more on the behaviors of the leader and follower, not so much on the roles each has (Northouse, 2019). Based on this information, we can determine that followership is co-created with the leader (Northouse, 2019). However, due to the anecdotal nature of the followership research, it is difficult to come to a definitive conclusion.
Followership theory has three significant flaws. The first flaw is followership is lacking in systematic research (Northouse, 2019). Because of this lack, it is difficult to draw too many conclusions on the strength of followership theory (Oc & Bashshur, 2013). Additionally, it is challenging to create models and methods due to the lack of basis (Northouse, 2019). Notably, research on how the different types of followers influence leaders and the leadership process has not been conducted (Oc & Bashshur, 2013). Second, most followership literature is based on personal observation (Northouse, 2019), thus weakening the conclusions. Third, it may difficult to change the focus from leaders to followers (Northouse, 2019) due to the sheer volume of writing and research about leadership.
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