For employers, the workforce is divided into two sorts of people: the leaders and the followers. The aim of most organizations is to create a synergistic relationship between these two kinds of people, which is also a major theme of this paper. While focusing more on followers and how they react to various stimuli, the paper also attempts to assess theories and propound ideas that could be instrumental in providing leaders the insight to influence their followers in a manner that is most conducive to the cause, whether it be organizational productivity, political organization, social mobilization or guerrilla warfare.
In each of these divergent activities, the impact of the leader and the devotion of the followers are important factors in the eventual success of the undertaking. Leaders as role-models for Followers For any entity to attain or exceed the levels of success that they aspire for, it is important for them to create a harmonious environment wherein the top and middle management enjoy the trust and respect of their sub-ordinates and vice versa. Therefore, a leadership is very important between the leaders and their followers.
As Afsaneh Nahavandi points out, “Charismatic leaders capture the imagination and inspire their followers’ devotion and allegiance. ” (Nahavandi, 2008). As she points out, such charisma is generally associated with political and religious leaders; however, she mentions that leaders in business organizations can also have the divine gift of charisma. Nahavandi further states that charismatic leaders have a combination of self-confidence, energy and the ability to communicate well that sets them apart from ordinary leaders. They are not only bosses for also serve as role-models and heroes for the followers.
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Conviction in action and unflinching belief that the decision taken is the right one is essential in inspiring a steadfast devotion among followers. However, an organization is “[a] system of consciously coordinated activities or forces of two or more persons” (Barnard, 1938). The combination of two or more persons working together implies the leader-follower scheme exists and, as with leadership styles, followers’ exhibit styles of followership. In this context, it is essential that followers know that their role is not merely confined to performing prescribed functions, but they have a greater role in the organization.
Often, followers harbor feelings of being dispensable, especially during times of economic downturns, and do not consider themselves as an essential element in the organizational structure. It is the responsibility of the charismatic leader to communicate to the followers about the importance of their role in the organization and allay fears – whether logical or illogical – that they would not be abandoned by the organization without due thought given to their contributions.
Moreover, it is important that leaders do not use their power over their followers for unethical purposes. Leaders wield enough power over their followers and can lead them into performing acts that are in violation of laws or ethics. While such behavior could be beneficial in the short-run, once exposed, it completely wipes out the trust and devotion that the leader previously enjoyed. Understanding Followers Followership styles, as defined by Kelley are “exemplary, alienated, conformist, pragmatist and passive” (Kelly, 1992).
These styles constitute the basis of the Kelley followership model and relate the followership styles to individual personality attributes in terms of thinking and acting in organizations. Individual thinking attributes are (a) independent critical, (b) dependent critical, (c) active, or (d) passive. These thinking attributes, like the styles of followership and leadership, give dimension to the philosophical notion of followership. (Kelley, 1992).
It is imperative for leaders to consider the various idiosyncrasies of followers and ensure that the way communication is carried out and action desired by the leader from the follower is not in conflict with the follower’s personal beliefs or values. For this, leaders do not only need to cultivate a strong relationship with the followers, but also take all the measures necessary to have as good an understanding as possible of the psychological, mental and spiritual make-up of the his followers.
When followers see that they are being given more attention that is necessary by their leader, not only does that add to their morale and increase their productivity, but also increases their devotion towards the leader. Sometimes, an innocuous question regarding the well-being of the sub-ordinates family, a friendly pat on the back or a shared joke is more instrumental in building cohesiveness and trust than most team-building exercises and expensive motivational workshops executed by the organization.
Such gestures are often pivotal in earning the leader the unquestioning obedience of the followers as well as their affection and loyalty. Acknowledgement of Effort As mentioned earlier, the charisma exude by certain leaders in itself is enough to sustain the devotion of the followers. However, it is of paramount importance that leaders’ recognize the efforts and performance of their followers, and reward appropriately when any task has been accomplished according to expectations.
To earn verbal praise on the fulfillment of a task by the leader, viewed as a role-model by the followers, is a strong impetus for the followers to strive for even better performance. However, acknowledgement that is limited to tribute does not suffice in the long-run. For that, monetary reward, in the form of cash bonus, promotion, or assignment of more important tasks is necessary, especially in a world where success is measured in terms of money. Afsaneh Nahavandi, among other ideas, suggests ‘Transactional Leadership’ and ‘Transformational Leadership’ for leaders to reward followers for exception performance.
She points out the short-term gains of the former method, wherein the “leader provides rewards and resources in return for motivation, productivity, and effective task accomplishment. ” She goes on to criticize this form of leadership, which does not inspire followers to aspire for excellence, but fulfills short-term goals. Long-term inspiration, she asserts, requires transformational leadership. In this, the leader attempts to positively influence the outlook of the follower and assigns him task that not only provide intellectual stimulation, but also serve the followers long-term goals of success.
By tying up the employees long-term goals with that of the organization, the transformational leader is able to create a perfectly symbiotic relationship in which the goals and vision of the leader, the follower and the organization are in harmony. Nahavandi also points out various other leadership techniques like ‘Spiritual and Value-Based Leadership’, wherein the leader tap into the basic values of the followers to transform the organization and create a vision that is in agreement with altruistic motives and values that aspire to bring about positive change in not only the life of the followers but also of society in general.
Conclusion While followers are as important in an organizational setup as leaders, the onus for providing the followers with the inspiration lies with the leader. A leader can inspire loyalty and obedience in his followers through his actions and earn their respect. Furthermore, it is import for leaders to have a profound understanding of the traits, idiosyncrasies and values of the followers in order to better utilize their abilities, and use that knowledge to strengthen the relationship between them.
Moreover, along with inspiring followers through charismatic leadership, it is imperative to rewards them monetarily or in a manner that furthers their career goals to ensure motivation and continuous high-performance. References Book Barnard, Chester. I. (1938). The Functions of the Executive. Cambridge, Massachusetts. Harvard University Press Kelly, Robert. E. (1992). Power of Followership. New York. Double Day Nahavandi, Afsaneh. (2008). The Art and Science of Leadership. 5th edition. New York. Prentice Hall
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