Are you missing the followers?

Election night crowd, Wellington, 1931

Image by National Library NZ on The Commons via Flickr

A google search for the term – Leadership generates 179,000,000 hits. A similar search for the term Followership generates 510,000. Try searching for a book on Leadership. Now try searching for a book on followership.

Interesting isn’t it? Most of us seem to be focussed on Leadership (and rightly so), however, I believe we need equal focus on Followership – the behaviour of followers, their attitudes, beliefs, fears, concerns and challenges.

If you get leaders to change their behaviors, but you don’t work on the followers…will this slow down the change? For example – Let’s say a tough autocratic leader goes through a 360 degree, takes feedback and decides to change. But, his followers are stuck with their perceptions of him/her and operate from their perceived reality. Unless we do some work with the followers as well, the rate of visible change in the dynamics of the team will be slow.

Look at what is happening in Egypt today. ALL revolutions are a result of a change in followership mindsets.

Cover of

Cover via Amazon

Is there a case for working on followership to drive change? Using the mass at the bottom of the pyramid to drive change? Influencing the mass and channelising their energies and commitment to executing on the ground?

But in order to do this, we must understand followership as well as we understand leadership.

My take, in organizations that have complacent/rigid

Dandi salt march, 1930

Image by Dena v.d.Wal via Flickr

leadership – influence the leadership and leverage the followership. Like Gandhi did by exhorting the nation to rise up. And influenced the leadership by choosing non-violence.

In organizations that have leaders who’re keen to change but are dealing with a rigid/anti-change followership – Leverage the leadership, shake-up and influence the followership. Like Gerstner did with IBM.

And in an organization where both are stuck – you won’t get the job. πŸ˜‰ I’m kidding! You just work harder!

And lastly, when you are able to mobilize such a large mass of people, the sheer mass leads to a very high level of momentum. Once again – check Egypt!

What do you think? What’s your experience? Talk to me. Leave a thought. Challenge this premise. share an experience. Add value!

Book – How followers are creating change

The Exceptional Strength of Followership – excellent blogpost

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About gurprrietsiingh

CxO-Level Executive Coach Change consultant. Tai Chi learner Beer Lover Aspirational Parent and Partner Sci Fi reader Mistake Maker Challenger
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4 Responses to Are you missing the followers?

  1. hps bajwa says:

    Nice one, honestly I never thought of anything other than ” Leadership” you are absolutely right ” followership” matters a lot. In case of EGYPT it seems that HM has left leadership far behind ( taken his presidency for granted) and never worked on followers. Now with this revolt it seems that there are multiple leaders among the “followers” who are mobilising them to stay in Cairo to make the change effective.
    It is quite challenging to work on followership , as one need to generalize the requirement of them and which may be 180 degree apart.

  2. Geetha Bellu says:

    An interesting perspective!

    While the huge number hits on ‘leadership’ signifies the aspiring human nature, I’m certain when the leadership is bad, there is always a momentum in followership that aims to change the leadership as happened in Egypt. As technology advances, I hope there will be much more of these momentums in coming days.

    Certainly, we can take a cue from how big brands leverage followership for their good πŸ™‚

  3. Agree with you! While working with leaders, I have found that many followers do not change their perception of the leader from years ago. This situation calls for a lot of extra, genuine effort from the leader to change these perceptions and create positive change. Leaders who understand this and focus on managing the perceptions of their followers make all the difference!!

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