“Leaders rarely use their power wisely or effectively over long periods
unless they are supported by followers who have the stature to help them do so.”
– Ira Chaleff, The Courageous Follower, 2003
Organizations are successful or not partly on the basis of how well their
leaders lead, but also in great part on the basis of how well their followers
follow. What is the role of the follower and how does it affect leadership
behavior? How can members of the executive team participate more effectively to
create a truly dynamic partnership relationship with their leader?
A look at recent corporate scandals reveals examples of not only leadership
failure but also a serious lack of responsible followership.
No matter how much partnership and empowerment there is, the CEO has ultimate
authority and responsibility. But what about the other members of the executive
team? The most capable team members fail when they gripe about their leader but
do not say or do anything to help them improve or get back on track.
Responsible followers can help a leader stay on track and manage their power and
decision-making processes in the right direction.
Executive team members may be hesitant to speak up when the leader makes
mistakes, whether they are made from the best of intentions or the worst. After
all, “She’s (or he’s) the boss.” Although we’ve grown beyond authoritarian
leadership whereby followers have no accountability, we haven’t yet developed a
model for responsible participation at the follower level for the new leadership
It is obviously not an easy task to speak up and challenge the leader, but
without the courage and skill to do so, corporate scandals can ensue. Giving
candid feedback to the boss is a skill that is not practiced as often as
necessary. Working with a neutral party such as a consultant or executive coach
can help a follower or executive team member to act courageously and
The full 2,000-word article includes the following concepts:
Leading and Following: A Symbiosis
Managing the Boss
Five Styles of Following
Four Essential Qualities of Effective Followers
Four Keys to Developing Effective Followers
A List of Resources
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