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Relationship between those who aspire to lead and those who choose to follow

Discuss the relationship between those who aspire to lead and those who choose to follow. Explain leadership from relationship and credibility perspectives as well as from followership types.

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shantamilan profile image

The underlining relationship between those who aspire to lead and those who choose to follow is that they cannot survive without the other. Without followers there will be no leader and without leader there will be no followers. It is not easy to become a leader and specification of a leader is hard to ascertain but there are a few essential practices that all great leaders have in common. Anyone can aspire to lead but only those people that have these leadership qualities can become a good leader. People choose to follow these type of leaders as they inspire them and share a common vision. As Kouzes and Posner rightfully said, “You can grant someone the title of chief executive, but that does not make him or her a leader. Leadership is earned. (Kouzes & Posner, 2003, p. 4)”

One of the basis of a good leadership quality is holding good relationship with the followers. This can only be achieved by fostering trust among them. “When you trust others and give them more discretion, more authority, and more information, they are much more likely to use their energies to produce extraordinary results. (Kouzes & Posner, 2003, p. 13)” Thus a leadership based on a relationship of trust goes a long way.

Credibility talks about beliefs and values that a leader holds. It is said that people first follow the messenger before believing the message. Thus the messenger should be a person who holds great beliefs and values that the followers also share. These values must also be shown and not talk about only. “The extent to which your actions are consistent with your words determines your personal credibility. (Kouzes & Posner, 2003, p. 37)”

Followership is more about the follower and their importance to the success of the project. Little credit is given to followers while the leader is highlighted in the success. “Followership is a straightforward concept. It is the ability to take direction well, to get in line behind a program, to be part of a team and to deliver on what is expected of you. It gets a bit of a bad rap! How well the followers follow is probably just as important to enterprise success as how well the leaders lead. (McCallum, 2013)”

Good leaders also have servant leadership quality that fosters trust, promotes credibility with action and also encourages the heart. “Hence, servant leadership is not a particular supervisory style one chooses to use when it is convenient or personally advantageous. Rather it is a conviction of the heart that constantly manifests whenever there is a legitimate need to serve in the absence of extenuating personal benefits. (Sen & Pekerti, 2010)”

Thus it is important for a leader to understand his followers well as they are the ones who will help him reach his vision. A leader cannot do it alone.


Kouzes, J. M., & Posner, B. Z. (2003). The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership. In B. P. Jim Kouzes, Leadership Challenge Workbook (First Edition ed., p. 13). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, A Wiley Imprint.

McCallum, J. S. (2013). FOLLOWERSHIP: THE OTHER SIDE OF LEADERSHIP. IVEY Business Journal . Retrieved from iveybusinessjournal.com/publicatio...

Sen , S., & Pekerti, A. (2010). Servant leadership as antecedent of trust in organizations. Leadership & Organization Development Journal; Bradford , 643-663. doi:dx.doi.org/10.1108/01437731011079673

susham profile image

Leaders and followers have an interconnected relationship. One of the underlying factors of organizations’ success lies in the ability of leader’s ability to lead their subordinates. However, the followers should also be proactive and help the leader in the process. Believing in yourself is great but you cannot consider yourself a credible leader until others believe in you. It is the trust you have gained from others that makes you an effective leader (Berg, 2013). Employees who believe in their organization’s leadership feel energized to contribute, as they feel they have some stakes in the outcomes and are inspired to make things happen.
Leadership is a relationship. And a relationship is bound to have expectations. It is crucial for leaders to meet the expectations of their followers and also communicate their expectations clearly. When credibility is diminished by miscommunication, the relationship between leaders and followers tend to become acrimonious. An organization where the leaders lack credibility cannot flourish well. In a survey conducted by Kousez and Posner, they found that people want their leaders to be honest, forward-looking, inspiring, and competent (Kouzes & Posner, 2010).
Being credible is critical because people have to know that they can trust those who are leading them and showing them the way. Sometimes leaders have to compromise their own values and morality by acting solely as the agent of the organization (Duignan & Bhindi, 1996).
Brigette Hyacinth has discussed about seven types of followers in her research (Hyacinth, 2014).

1.Sycophants ( The “yes” people)
They never point out problems or give critical feedback. They just simply agree to the leader but will deflect in case of any problems in the organization.
2.Critics ( The opposition)
Their goal is to challenge whatever the leader has to say. They might have been disgruntled for some reasons of the past. They usually are the first ones to meet the new employees in the organization.
3.Realist (The constructive critical thinker)
They interact regularly and are the critical thinkers of the organization. If they agree, they will defend the leader with all their might. If they, however, disagree, they will offer constructive alternatives and help the leader and organization achieve their aims.
4.Loyalists ( The genuine supporters)
They are the highly engaged workers and work intensively to support the leader. They are reliable and dependable. They are highly satisfied, productive and are passionate about the team. They will also provide regular suggestions for improvement.
5.Traitors (The Silent Haters)
They act well in front of the leader and have most likely gained the trust of the
leader. However, they have strong negative emotional feelings about the leader and are secretly working to undermine the leader.
6.Spectators ( The Observers)
They are neither against nor with the leader. They just work for their payment. They are disengaged with the organization or task and hols a position of neutrality about the leader.
7.The Opportunists (The Freebooters)
They have a price and can easily be bought. They like to have allegiance with whoever is on the top.
Berg, S. E. (2013). Credibility in Leadership. The Truth About Leadership: The No-Fads, Heart-Of-The-Matter Facts You Need To Know, 1-5.
Duignan, P., & Bhindi, N. (1996). Authenticity in leadership: an emerging perspective. 195-200.
Hyacinth, B. (2014, 11 16). Profile: Linkedin.com. Retrieved from A professional networking website: linkedin.com/
Kouzes, J., & Posner, B. (2010). The Truth about Leadership. London: Wiley.

ujjwalpoudel profile image

Personal development is a lifelong process. It is a way for people to assess their skills and qualities, consider their aims in life and set goals in order to realize and maximize their potential (Dugan, 2006). It involves a step of further involvement of care and supervising to the followers. It is an initiative or action that makes the employees or followers feel appreciated and valued. Ultimately, it would lead to more commitment and involvement of the followers as well.

When a leader gets personally involved in an organization, it really motivates the employees to desire to work and uplifts the morale of the employees throughout. Here, the personal leadership of the leaders creates an environment of togetherness in every activity of the organization. The leader needs to provide proper guidance to the followers by getting personally involved. This ensures effective and efficient work as well. So when leaders provide the space and create an environment where the followers can work best. Finally, it fosters creativity and creates an environment where creative ideas from workers are generated (Carmeli & Schaubroeck, 2007).

There are some ways a leader can get personally involved and show that he or she cares. When leader walk around and meet people, communicate with them can help a leader understand the real issue. Then he can advise the team. I find this is important because communication gap can mislead them from the path of goal accomplishment. Also, leaders can know who with what set of skills to position where, in order to achieve maximum value. To sum up, leader must be attentive of employees’ interest and focus. If employees are looking for change, they must avail deserving employee with right & new opportunities (Schein, 1983).


Carmeli, A., & Schaubroeck, J. (2007). The influence of leaders’ and other referents’ normative expectations on individual involvement in creative work. The Leadership Quarterly, 18 (1), 35-48.

Dugan, J. P. (2006). Involvement and leadership: A descriptive analysis of socially responsible leadership. Journal of College Student Development, 47 (3), 335-343.

Schein, E. H. (1983). The role of the founder in creating organizational culture. Organizational dynamics, 12 (1), 13-28.

dipadhungana profile image

Leadership is the relationship between those who aspire to lead and who choose to follow (Kouzes & Posner, 2012). Leadership is all about engaging with people living in the front-line. Effective leaders recognize the importance of building solid relationships. They spend time focusing their efforts in the key areas that will build connections with the people they lead. In order to strengthen the leadership, leaders should be willing to listen, understand and acknowledge the people they lead (Hopkin, 2011).

The strategies, tactics, skills and practices are hollow and fruitless unless the human aspirations that connects leaders and their constituents are understood and appreciated. The connection is experienced through the interaction between people. There is dynamic relationship of mutual benefit and support between the leaders and supporters. They need each other and the task, organization, business or cause they serve needs both of them. So undoubtedly, leadership is a relationship.

Credibility is the foundation of the leadership. It is the base upon which the leaders and followers build dreams and aspirations for the future. Without credibility, the relationship will rot due to lack of trust. Credibility is essential is generating confidence in unknown times. The leaders can create trust and credibility by standing true to his words, walking the talk and doing what is said will be done (Kouzes & Posner, 2014).

Followership is as important as leadership because without followers, leader is a lonely figure. The followers follow the leader not because they have to but because they want to. For example people are inclined towards certain political parties not because they are compelled to do so but they want to. The followers need to contribute as much as the leader in order to strengthen the relationship and build credibility. Identifying with the leaders, building trust, courageous communication and negotiating differences are the attributes the followers need to demonstrate to contribute to the relationship and credibility aspect of leadership. Self-management, commitment, competency, focus and courage are the qualities of effective followership (Knockalla Consulting, n.d.).

Kelly (1992) has divided the followers as alienated followers, conformist followers, passive followers, pragmatist followers and exemplary followers on the basis of independent decision-making, critical thinking and participation on the team work. The alienated followers are independent and show less engagement with the group while the conformist followers are not independent and show high enganement to the group. Passive followers are totally dependent on the leaders and the pragmatist followers show certain level of independency and engagement. The exemplary followers are critical thinkers who use their mind a lot are someone the leaders look upto. The relationship and credibility is also influenced by the type of follower group a leader is leading.

Apart from leaders and followers, organization culture should also support the relationship and credbility. For this, the organization should focus on developing leaders who are not afraid of criticisms, open and are ready to follow the followers if needed. Similarly, the followers who are able to see their current role is to follow and to show leadership if needed are to be developed. The emphasis should be given on creating leaders people want to follow and creating followers who will lead themselves to foster relationship and credibility among leaders and followers.

Hopkin, M. R. (2011, November 26). Lead on Purpose. Retrieved from Leadership is a Relationship: leadonpurpose.com/2011/11/26/ledae...

Kelly, R. (1992). The Power of Followership. New York: Doubledag.

Knockalla Consulting. (n.d.). Followership is as Important as Leadership . Retrieved from knockallaconsulting.com/followersh...

Kouzes, J. M., & Posner, B. Z. (2012). The Leadership Challenge. San Francisco: A Wiley Brand.

Kouzes, J. M., & Posner, B. Z. (2014). Credibility. New York: A Wiley Print.