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Why do Leaders need true followers?

Followers are an essential part of the leadership equation. Without good followers, becoming a good leader is difficult as the proverb says: “He who thinks he leads, but has no followers, is only taking a walk”. Everyone aspires to be a leader but what is the chief ingredient that makes a leader effective; the followers. A good leader will not underestimate the power of followers. A good leader knows the importance of followers and is aware of the type of followers he has.

Focusing on leadership alone is like trying to understand clapping by studying only the left hand.” Jonathan Haidt

Over the years, only a handful of researches have attempted to study, segment and speak about followers in some depth.

    In 1962, Robert Presthus created a theory of organizational life that defined three unique types of workers: Upwardly mobiles, Ambivalents, and Indifferents.
    In 1988 Robert E. Kelley developed a theory of followers describing five types: Conformist, Passive, Alienated, Exemplary and Pragmatic.
    Ira Chaleff’s Styles of Followership (2003) proposes four distinct follower types: Resource, Individualist, Implementer and Partner.
    Barbara Kellerman in 2007 described a typology of followership based on the level of engagement; Isolates, Bystanders, Activists, Participants, and Diehards.
    In 2008 Roger Adair proposed the 4-D Followership four distinct types of workers: Disgruntled, Disengaged, Doer and Disciple.
    The Curphy-Roellig Followership 2010 Model builds on some of the earlier followership research of Robert Kelley, Ed Hollander, and Barbara Kellerman and consists of two independent dimensions and four followership types: Self-Starters, Slackers, Brown-Nosers and Criticizers.

    In 2014 Brigette Hyacinth proposed a followership model consisting of 7 types of followers- Sycophants, Critics, Realists, Loyalists, Traitors, Spectators and Opportunists.

Good leadership begins with knowing yourself and understanding the people who are following you. Leadership is not a right, but it is a privilege given by the followers. Understanding the types of followers (What are their motives and underlying psychological drivers) and who is in each camp is critical to knowing how to influence.