For organizations to grow and flourish, another less well-known set of skills is also needed. Those skills revolve around the concept of followership. Robert Kelley, Professor at Carnegie Mellon University

The corollary to ‘People are our most important asset’ is, inevitably, ‘We want everyone to be a leader.’ How many companies, nonprofit organizations, or government institutions have training courses in ‘followership’?

Douglas K. Smith – “The Following Part of Leading.” In The Leader of the Future: New Visions, Strategies, and Practices for the Next Era.


As you know from your own experience and my reference in the previous article, there is no question about the plethora of advertising, books, videos, audios, classroom training, formal education programs, white papers, articles, speaking engagements, coaching, blogs, etc. etc. (ad nausea) on what is and how to be a great Effective Leader. Obviously, most people believe that leadership can be learned than believe that leaders are born. In fact, there are tremendous training efforts going on within some organizations to try to develop leaders to replace the ones that are retiring or leaving various industries over the next few years. There is a fear, by many researchers, writers, and business organizations that there will be a leadership void simply because of demographics for the immediate and intermediate future.

However, the focus of this article is not on leadership learning, and the need for more/less of it since the need has been established, apparently. Rather, the information above is only to note the amount of effort, energy, time, and money that has been and is being devoted to leadership learning, contrasted to FOLLOWERSHIP learning! The question is, shouldn’t we consider the need for more education and training on Effective FOLLOWER, as well?


As a reader of this column, whether you are an executive, learning officer, trainer, human resources practitioner or just a person who has accidentally come upon this article, you undoubtedly recognize the paucity of advertising, books, videos, audios, classroom training, formal education programs, white papers, articles, speaking engagements, coaching, blogs, etc., etc. regarding Effective FOLLOWERSHIP. There seems to be an assumption that people know instinctively how to effectively follow. I would ask why that would be true, if we accept the fact that Effective Leaders are made, not born. It’s my contention, that we have so emphasized the ‘cult of leadership’ that we have abandoned the subject of Effective FOLLOWERSHIP and its importance in creating successful organizations. The result could be as much or more detrimental to both business and governmental performance, and possibly this nation’s future.


  • Followers now judge leaders more harshly.
  • Leaders now have impact only with credibility.
  • If leader is able to take the followers to a common goal, it is because they were all capable of that kind of response!

Throughout history, Effective Followership has been important, but quite possibly or even probably, never more important than today! So, what should we consider doing?