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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Illinois Leadership Competencies: Interpersonal/Team: Followership

Effective leadership requires working with and influencing others to achieve common goals and shared vision. Leaders need to develop skills for building personal, authentic, and productive relationships.

What is followership?

 "You can't have great leaders without great followers"

A leader supports other leaders and their initiatives, and challenges the group and other leaders with respect and consideration.

Followership is a crucial part of leadership, but has only recently gained momentum in the leadership community and literature. Followership can be defined as the ability to follow a leader, but the role of the follower goes much deeper than simply following a leader's vision. A strong leader-follower relationship is dynamic and fosters success and creativity for both parties in involved.

People who demonstrate strong followership passionately support their leaders and help shape their initiatives, but also feel courageous enough to challenges the group and other leaders with respect and consideration. The resources here give an in-depth look at the leader-follower relationship, and the benefits of fostering a strong relationship between leaders and their followers.

Followership Books

Leadership and Followership: What Tango Teaches Us About Followership

Using tango dancing as a metaphor, the dance partners in this video demonstrate the different types of failed leader-follower relationships and how those failed relationships can hinder both people involved. These failed relationships not only stifle creativity, but can also derail progress towards an organization's goal. In this case, the dancers were not able to perform the tango gracefully or in sync. 

The tango dancers also demonstrate a strong leader-follower relationship, proving that good followers are never passive. In fact, effective followers can step in to stabilize leaders if they begin to lose focus. Strong leader/follower relationships also foster growth and creativity, whether that be on the dance floor or in an office. 

Followership Podcast

In this podcast, successful leader Cory Bouck defines the theory of followership, the roles of followers in organizations, and how focusing on others' success can lead to your own success. Give it a listen!

Web Articles

Each of these articles highlight some of the skills needed to become a great follower. Courage, commitment, honesty, effective listening, and ego management are just some of the skills great followers have. Check out these articles to learn about even more skills.

Other Followership Resources