I, The Absolute


Posted by itheabsolute on July 8, 2005

Prof Raju mentioned that he had asked his friend and our Strategy tutor Prof. Harbir Singh on why the Strategy discipline always focuses on Leadership and not followership. Brilliant. All I needed to think further was the idea.

Given a situation, there is only one leader, there are many followers. Why cannot we prepare people to be good followers? Following is not about imitating or blindly going behind some one. A follower can have his own set of rules. He can position himself in such a fashion such that people around can relate to him.

This happens in business. Some companies consciously decide to build their strategy, positioning and advertising around the concept that they are number two*, not number one.

Also, a leader is nothing without proper follwership. Followers, thus, are as much a part of the success or revolution that a leader may bring. Hanuman was a great follower; but he created a niche for himself and is treated as a great Hero/god. PV Narasimha Rao was the leader who had the guts to initiate tough economic reforms when Indian was in doldrums in 1991; but his follower, Dr. Manmohan Singh, being the executioner, is remembered as the architect of the economic regeneration. He thus created an image for himself.

Followership is not about losing; it is about finding one’s own unique reasons to perform and contribute; it is about finding one’s own niche to operate from.


1. Today, Prof Raju was at his best. We had a case analysis. The perspectives and analyses he used to unravel the complexities in the case were just too brilliant. Nirvana!

2. When I first wrote about Prof Raju, I wrote about his ability to kindle interest and enthusiasm amongst students to think further. I think he is doing this job quite brilliantly.

* Read “Positioning” by Al Ries and Jack Trout for further gyan on this number two business.

10 Responses to “Followership”

  1. I thought you might find my blog entry of interest.

    Are you an effective follower?

    When I was a child, my friends and I would go to the local school yard and enjoy pick-up games. We would take turns being captain and then divide into teams. We all had fun without adult supervision. As I grew older, I became aware that in the “adult world” it was better to be the “picker” (leader) than a “pickee” (follower).

    Aspiring to Lead

    I learned there were all types of leaders in the world: student leaders, church leaders, community leaders, business leaders, political leaders, team leaders and so forth. I learned that our society viewed leaders as “stars” and followers … well, followers are followers. We should aspire to be leaders. Like many of you, I started reading books about leaders. When I arrived at college, I discovered there were courses on leadership but none on followership.

    We are all followers

    As an adult, I quickly realized that I actually spent a fair amount of time following others’ leads. Isn’t one person’s leader another person’s follower? Leaders could not be leaders without followers. Yet, I’ve been in leadership team meetings where everyone privately wanted to lead and no one wanted to follow. But, in any given situation not everyone can be the leader. Some team members must be followers if there is any hope of getting things done. Also, leaders are only so effective if their followers are effective.

    Leadership is a role and followership is a choice.

    In my experience there are five types of followers:

    Enthusiastic: Diehards are passionate about an idea a person or both and will give all for them. When they consider something worthy, they becomes dedicated.
    Willing: Activists feel strongly about their organizations and leaders and act accordingly. When supportive, they are eager, energetic and engaged.
    Compliant: Passive followers do as they are told and are not particularly active participants. They do what is expected of them and keep their heads below the radar. They “go along to get along.”
    Fearful: Fearful followers feel coerced or intimidated. They fear potential loss of job, position, money or some other valued asset.
    Resistant/Unwilling: Resistant followers refuse to follow. They do not support the decisions and authority of the leader. They will create roadblocks and undermine the leadership.

    While there are different types of followers, effective followership must correspond to the situation. Each situation offers the follower a choice on how to support the leader.

    Pushing the Edge of Your Thinking

    What type of follower are you for your leader?
    Is that what your leader needs and expects of you?
    If not, are you willing to change and become the follower that your leader needs?
    What type of followers do you need to be successful as a leader?
    Do you have the type of followership you need to succeed?
    What do you need to do to engender the type of followers you need?

  2. Hi Beyond doctorate

    thanks.agree that without an effort from the follower, there is little hope of his ever remaining there too. he would become one among crowd. sure, there is a lot that a follower can learn from his leader and in his own way become one.


  3. Good Entry! Keep up the effort. I have my own views on this issue being in leadership position as an Air Force pilot for last 17 yrs but a good follower with purely follower like traits will get left behind unless he picks up good leadership traits through mentor-mentee relationship. The onous also lies on the org to give him support in personal growth.

  4. sundeep

    while i agree with u, the reference is not to the mass of followers. some people just happy being there. they derive vicarious happiness. hero thrashes villian – they are happy. hero dances with heroin – they think they have danced.

    i was referring to the types who realise that they cannot be leaders but consciously develop a means to occupy number two/three positions and maintain them.


  5. anuj

    thanks. sometimes just dont have energy to blog, but learning is best done when it is shared. i will serve my purpose when i can pass on what i have learnt


  6. dinesh

    thanks. such comments give me the energy to think and blog.


  7. sundeep said

    pardon for the last sentence… missed the word “can” before LEAD self

  8. sundeep said

    however, one need not teach someone to be a follower… usually becoming a follower is there by default… thats the herd instinct… don’t think… just act and implement… like a true follower… the moment one starts to think and act..they are tending to become a leader…

    Also, occupying the leaderhip POSITION is not necessary… Everyone can define their own domain and be a leader: it could be an entire nation, state, city, neighbourhood, family or just self… yes one LEAD self to self-discovery, to think and shun the laziness and act !

  9. Anuj said

    Really thought provoking

  10. Dinesh said

    You know what, I feel like half-MBA merely by reading your posts.

    Simply brilliant! Keep writing..

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