The Leadership-followership Dynamic: Making the Choice to Follow

By Raymond W. Cox Ⅲ, Gregory K. Plagens and Keba Sylla.

Published by The Social Sciences Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Leadership studies generally focus on the role and importance of the positional or formal leader. The paradigmatic leader is the great military or political figure—the historian’s “great man.” There is no coherent foundational perspective on followership that is not the resultant of leadership. This work offers a framework for a follower-centric view of leadership that reveals the importance of followership. Leaders and followers exhibit different attributes depending upon the organizational setting. To acting of following requires the organizational attribute of a willingness to be lead, but also the interpersonal attribute of the capability to respond (knowledge, experience). Understanding each other’s role and values is essential in this transformation of the traditional view in organizations. To lead requires the organizational attributes of decisiveness, problem recognition and the capacity to prioritize, but also the interpersonal attribute of the willingness to conduct a talent search (finding someone to follow). Followership is not merely the actions of a subordinate who accepts and obeys the dictates of the organizational authority figures. Therefore, followership is not the same as following. Following is impelled (consciously or unconsciously influenced) by actions of leaders. Following is reactive. In contrast followership is an a priori choice (self-conscious) of the individual in the context of his or her relationship to the nominal leader. Issues of authority and rank play little or no role in such a choice. Followership is interactive. Followers are in control the situation by the choices made. Therefore, organizational success is in the hands of followers.

Keywords: Leadership, Inter-personal Relations, Management, Decision-making, Problem-solving

International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, Volume 5, Issue 8, pp.37-52. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 718.670KB).

Dr. Raymond W. Cox Ⅲ

Professor and Chair, Department of Public Administration and Urban Studies, The University of Akron, Akron, Ohio, USA

Raymond W. Cox III is a Professor and Interim Chair of the Department of Public Administration and Urban Studies at the University of Akron. He received his PhD in Public Administration and Policy from Virginia Tech. Dr. Cox is the author of nearly sixty academic and professional publications (including three books with another being readied for publication), a dozen reports for government agencies, as well as nearly fifty professional papers. His articles have appeared in the leading journals in the field of public management, including Public Administration Review, Public Administration Quarterly, Public Integrity, the International Journal of Public Administration and the American Review of Public Administration. His service to the profession was recognized with the prestigious Donald C. Stone Award from the American Society for Public Administration (ASPA). In served a two-year term as the Chair of ASPA’s Section on Ethics and next year begins a term as Chair of the Section on Intergovernmental Administration and Management. He is also the Chair of the Local Government Management Education Committee of the National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration (NASPAA). During a career that has spanned considerably more than three decades Dr. Cox has had three stints in the public service, first as a legislative analyst (Speaker’s Office, Massachusetts House of Representatives), as a Program Manager/Director for the National Science Foundation and as the Chief of Staff to a Lieutenant Governor (New Mexico). Because of this combination of professional and academic experience he was approved for the Fulbright Senior Specialist Program. His first assignment was to develop a performance measurement training program for mid-level managers in the government of Latvia. Later he created a career development training program for that government. In 2007 he was selected as Research Chair in Public Policy at McGill University under the Fulbright Program.

Gregory K. Plagens

Assistant Professor, Department of Public Administration and Urban Studies, The University of Akron, Akron, Ohio, USA

Professor Plagens’s research interests are in public policy, education policy, public administration, social capital, human resource management, state and local government, and leadership. He is currently teaching courses in quantitative analysis, public policy, and leadership at the University of Akron, where he arrived in 2006 after completing a doctoral degree in political science at the University of South Carolina. Preceding full-time graduate studies, Professor Plagens held cabinet-level public relations and communications positions in South Carolina in three public school districts, the last of which had 4,500 employees and 26,000 students. He has an undergraduate degree from Bowling Green State University in journalism and spent 18 months as a newspaper reporter before entering public service.

Dr. Keba Sylla

PhD Candidate, Department of Public Administration and Urban Studies, The University of Akron, Akron, Ohio, USA

Mr. Sylla is a doctoral student in Public Administration at The University of Akron, USA.


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