The Underrated Art of Followership

The Underrated Art of Followership


Followership: the process of following and/or being guided and directed by a leader.

Followership is the essence of leadership. Without followers there can be no leaders. In leading you follow and in following, you lead. Followership is therefore a critically important skill for both leaders, and aspiring leaders in the marketplace today.

Kelley (1988) suggests that effective followers:

  • Manage themselves well;
  • Are committed to the organisation, and to a person, purpose or principle outside themselves;
  • Build their competence and focus their efforts for maximum impact; and
  • Are courageous, honest and credible.

Kelley also suggests that effective followers posses three crucial aptitudes:

  • Awareness and understanding: they are aware of leaders’ requirements and expectations and accurately understand directions and instructions.
  • Willingness and problem solving responsibility: the are motivated to act on / implement directions and take responsibility for the quality of the relationship.
  • Utilisation capability: they are able to manage themselves in forming an effective leader/follower relationship.

Despite its importance to the effective functioning of organisations everywhere, the art of followership is paid surprisingly little attention.

So how are your (and your team’s) followership skills looking? Perhaps through recognising and rewarding those who practice the art of followership in your organisations (and through practicing it yourself), you can inspire more people to consider their own followership skills, and begin to increase the effectiveness of your organisation.

For more on ‘Followership’, see CAL’s whitepaper Followership and Employee Engagement.


Kelley R.E. (1988) In Praise of Followers. Harvard Business Review. Nov.-Dec. Vol 66 Iss.6, pp 142-149

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