Followership Development: A Behavioral Approach

  • Melissa K. CarstenEmail author
Part of the Annals of Theoretical Psychology book series (AOTP, volume 15)


Leadership development programs have traditionally focused on building a leader’s skills, identities, and behavioral styles with little attention paid to followers. Yet we know that followers are an integral part of the leadership process, and effective followership can positively influence both leaders and organizations. The purpose of this chapter is to define and present a model for followership development in organizations. Using followership theory and research as a foundation, this chapter discusses two forms of followership behavior (i.e., active and passive), and examines the ways in which different followership styles can affect leaders and the leadership process. In doing so, I make a case for why organizations should invest in followership development for both leaders and followers in organizations, and present a general model for followership development programs. As organizations continue to rely on effective followership to support and enhance leadership, it is imperative that we begin bringing followers into the leadership development equation.


Follower Followership Behavior Development Organizational development Leader skills 


  1. Agho, A. O. (2009). Perspectives of senior-level executives on effective followership and leadership. Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies, 16(2), 159–166.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Ashford, S. J., & Tsui, A. S. (1991). Self-regulation for managerial effectiveness: The role of active feedback seeking. Academy of Management Journal, 34, 251–280.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Baker, S. D., Sites-Doe, S. A., Mathis, C. J., & Rosenback, W. E. (2014). The fluid nature of follower and leader roles. In L. Lapierre & M. K. Carsten (Eds.), Followership: What is it and why do people follow? Bingley, UK: Emerald.Google Scholar
  4. Bass, B. M., & Stogdill, R. M. (1990). Bass & Stogdill’s handbook of leadership: Theory, research, and managerial applications. New York: Simon and Schuster.Google Scholar
  5. Bedeian, A. G., & Hunt, J. G. (2006). Academic amnesia and vestigial assumptions of our forefathers. The Leadership Quarterly, 17(2), 190–205.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Belk, R. W. (1988). Possessions and the extended self. Journal of Consumer Research, 15, 139–168.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bennett, J. B. (1988). Power and influence as distinct personality traits: Development and validation of a psychometric measure. Journal of Research in Personality, 22(3), 361–394.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bennis, W. G. (2000). The end of leadership: Exemplary leadership is impossible without the full inclusion, initiatives, and cooperation of followers. Organizational Dynamics, 28(1), 71–79.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Campbell, D. J. (2000). The proactive employee: Managing workplace initiative. The Academy of Management Executive, 14(3), 52–66.Google Scholar
  10. Carlyle, T. (1888). On heroes, hero-worship and the heroic in history. New York: Fredrick A. Stokes & Brother.Google Scholar
  11. Carsten, M.K. & Lapierre, L. (2016). Follower role orientation as predictors of conflict management style. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the academy of management, Anaheim, CA.Google Scholar
  12. Carsten, M. K., & Uhl-Bien, M. (2013). Ethical followership: An examination of followership beliefs and crimes of obedience. Journal of Leadership and Organizational Studies, 20(1), 45–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Carsten, M. K., Uhl-Bien, M., & Griggs, T. L. (2016). Do you believe what i believe? A theoretical model of congruence in follower role orientation and its effects on manager and subordinate outcomes. In W. A. Gentry, C. Clerkin, P. L. Perrewé, J. R. B. Halbesleben, & C. C. Rosen (Eds.), The role of leadership in occupational stress (Research in occupational stress and well-being, Volume 14) (pp. 91–114). Bingley, UK: Emerald.Google Scholar
  14. Carsten, M. K., Uhl-Bien, M., & Harms, P. D. (2014). Exploring historical perspectives of followership: The need for an expanded view of followers and the follower role. In L. Lapierre & M. K. Carsten (Eds.), Followership: What is it and why do people follow? Bingley, UK: Emerald.Google Scholar
  15. Carsten, M. K., Uhl-Bien, M., & Huang, L. (2017). Leader perceptions and motivation as outcomes of followership role orientation and behavior. Leadership. doi: 10.1177/1367549417708437
  16. Carsten, M.K., Uhl-Bien, M. & Jayawickrema, A. (2013). Reversing the lens in leadership research: Investigating follower role orientation and leader outcomes. Paper presented at the 2013 annual meeting of the Southern Management Association, New Orleans, LA.Google Scholar
  17. Carsten, M. K., Uhl-Bien, M., West, B. J., Patera, J. L., & McGregor, R. (2010). Exploring social constructions of followership: A qualitative study. The Leadership Quarterly, 21(3), 543–562.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Chaleff, I. (2003). The courageous follower: Standing up to and for our leaders (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishing.Google Scholar
  19. Collinson, D. (2006). Rethinking followership: A post-structuralist analysis of follower identities. The Leadership Quarterly, 17(2), 179–189.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Conger, J. A., & Kanungo, R. N. (1987). Toward a behavioral theory of charismatic leadership in organizations. Academy of Management Review, 12(4), 637–647.Google Scholar
  21. Courpasson, D., & Dany, F. (2003). Indifference or obedience? Business firms as democratic hybrids. Organization Studies, 24(8), 1231–1260.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Day, D. V., Fleenor, J. W., Atwater, L. E., Sturm, R. E., & McKee, R. A. (2014). Advances in leader and leadership development: A review of 25 years of research and theory. The Leadership Quarterly, 25(1), 63–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. de Vries, R. E., & van Gelder, J.-L. (2005). Leadership and the need for leadership: Testing an implicit followership theory. In B. Schyns & J. R. Meindl (Eds.), Implicit leadership theories: Essays and explorations (pp. 277–304). Greenwich, CT: JAI Press.Google Scholar
  24. DeRue, D. S., & Ashford, S. J. (2010). Who will lead and who will follow? A social process of leadership identity construction in organizations. Academy of Management Review, 35(4), 627–647.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Frese, M., Fay, D., Hilburger, T., Leng, K., & Tag, A. (1997). The concept of personal initiative: Operationalization, reliability and validity in two German samples. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 70(2), 139–161.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Gregory, W. E. (1955). “Authoritarianism” and authority. The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 51(3), 641–643.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Groscurth, C. (2014). Why your company must be mission-driven. Business Journal, March 6, 2014. Retrieved February 2, 2016, from
  28. Heckscher, C. (1994). Defining the post-bureaucratic type. In C. Heckscher & A. Donnellon (Eds.), The post-bureaucratic organization: New perspectives on organizational change (pp. 14–62). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  29. Hollander, E. P. (1993). Legitimacy, power, and influence: A perspective on relational features of leadership. In M. M. Chemers & A. Roya (Eds.), Leadership theory and practice: Perspectives and directions. San Diego, CA: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  30. Hoption, C. (2014). Learning and developing followership. Journal of Leadership Education, 2014, 129–137.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Hoption, C., Barling, J., & Turner, N. (2013). “It’s not you, it’s me”: Transformational leadership and self-deprecating humor. Leadership & Organization Development Journal, 34(1), 4–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Howell, J., & Mendez, M. (2008). Three perspectives on followership. In R. Riggio, I. Chaleff, & J. Lipman-Blumen (Eds.), The art of followership: How great followers create great leaders and organizations (pp. 25–40). San Francisco: Joessey-Bass.Google Scholar
  33. Kark, R., Shamir, B., & Chen, G. (2003). The two faces of transformational leadership: Empowerment and dependency. Journal of Applied Psychology, 88(2), 246.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  34. Katz, D., & Kahn, R. L. (1978). The social psychology of organizations (2nd ed.). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  35. Kellerman, B. (2008). Followership: How followers are creating change and changing leaders. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.Google Scholar
  36. Kelley, R. (1992). The power of followership: How to create leaders people want to follow, and followers who lead themselves. New York: Broadway Business.Google Scholar
  37. Kuhn, E. S., & Laird, R. D. (2011). Individual differences in early adolescents’ beliefs in the legitimacy of parental authority. Developmental Psychology, 47(5), 1353–1365.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  38. Latour, S. M., & Rast, V. J. (2004). Dynamic followership: The prerequisite for effective leadership. Air & Space Power Journal, 18(4), 102–111.Google Scholar
  39. Lawler, E. E., & Galbraith, J. R. (1994). Avoiding the corporate dinosaur syndrome. Organizational Dynamics, 23(2), 5–17.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. McCallum, J.S. (2013). Followership: The other side of leadership. Ivey Business Journal, September/October issue. Retrieved September 23, 2016, from http://Iveybusinessjournal.Com/Publication/Followership-the-other-side-of-leadership/.
  41. Meindl, J. R. (1995). The romance of leadership as a follower-centric theory: A social constructionist approach. The Leadership Quarterly, 6(3), 329–341.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Milliken, F. J., Morrison, E. W., & Hewlin, P. F. (2003). An exploratory study of employee silence: Issues that employees don’t communicate upward and why. Journal of Management Studies, 40(6), 1453–1476.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Morand, D. A. (1996). Dominance, deference, and egalitarianism in organizational interaction: A sociolinguistic analysis of power and politeness. Organization Science, 7(5), 544–556.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Parker, S. K. (2007). That is my job: How employees’ role orientation affects their job performance. Human Relations, 60(3), 403–434.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Parker, S. K., Wall, T. D., & Jackson, P. R. (1997). “That’s not my job”: Developing flexible employee work orientations. Academy of Management Journal, 40(4), 899–929.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Parker, S. K., Williams, H. M., & Turner, N. (2006). Modeling the antecedents of proactive behavior at work. Journal of Applied Psychology, 91(3), 636–652.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  47. Pierce, J. L., Kostova, T., & Dirks, K. T. (2001). Toward a theory of psychological ownership in organizations. Academy of Management Review, 26(2), 298–310.Google Scholar
  48. Ravlin, E. C., & Thomas, D. C. (2005). Status and stratification processes in organizational life. Journal of Management, 31(6), 966–987.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Scott, D., Bishop, J. W., & Chen, X. (2003). An examination of the relationship of employee involvement with job satisfaction, employee cooperation, and intention to quit in US invested enterprise in China. The International Journal of Organizational Analysis, 11(1), 3–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Selznick, P. (1957). Leadership in administration. New York: Harper & Row.Google Scholar
  51. Shamir, B. (2007). From passive recipients to active co-producers: Followers’ roles in the leadership process. In B. Shamir, R. Pillai, M. C. Bligh, & M. Uhl-Bien (Eds.), Follower-centered perspectives on leadership. A tribute to the memory of James R. Meindl (pp. Ix–xxxix). Greenwich, CT: Information Age Publishing.Google Scholar
  52. Smith, R. M. (1997). Defining leadership through followership: Concepts for approaching leadership development. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the National Communication Association (83rd, Chicago, IL, November 19-23, 1997).Google Scholar
  53. Stogdill, R. M. (1948). Personal factors associated with leadership: A survey of the literature. Journal of Psychology, 25, 35–71.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  54. Sy, T. (2010). What do you think of followers? Examining the content, structure, and consequences of implicit followership theories. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 113(2), 73–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Sy, T., & McCoy, T. (2014). Being both leaders and followers: Advancing a model of leader and follower role switching. In L. Lapierre & M. K. Carsten (Eds.), Followership: What is it and Why do People Follow? Bingley, UK: Emerald.Google Scholar
  56. Thompson, J. A. (2005). Proactive personality and job performance: A social capital perspective. Journal of Applied Psychology, 90(5), 1011.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  57. Tyler, T. R. (1997). The psychology of Legitmiacy: A relational perspective on vluntary deference to authorities. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 1(4), 323–345.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  58. Uhl-Bien, M., & Pillai, R. (2007). The romance of leadership and the social construction of followership. In B. Shamir, R. Pillai, M. C. Bligh, & M. Uhl-Bien (Eds.), Followercentered perspectives on leadership: A tribute to the memory of James R. Meindl (pp. 187–210). Greenwich, CT: Information Age Publishing.Google Scholar
  59. Uhl-Bien, M., Riggio, R. E., Lowe, K. B., & Carsten, M. K. (2014). Followership theory: A review and research agenda. The Leadership Quarterly, 25(1), 83–104.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Weitman, M. (1962). More than one kind of authoritarian. Journal of Personality, 30, 193–208.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  61. Yukl, G. (1989). Managerial leadership: A review of theory and research. Journal of Management, 15(2), 251–289.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Management and MarketingCollege of Business Administration, Winthrop UniversityRock HillUSA

Personalised recommendations