Followership: an important soft skill for working in complex organizations

Not everybody can be a leader. Sometimes one has to lead, other times one needs to follow a boss. But being an effective follower is not so simple, the follower role is as hard as the leader role. Followership can be defined as the ability to work within an organization, in order to reach common goals under the direction of the leader, while maintaining independent thinking.

The research which explains followership is extensive. The majority says that the most relevant skills a follower should have are

critical thinking and being supportive of the leader. From this perspective, it is clear that the “perfect follower” is not a yes-man or woman but a person who can follow the rules, who can be supportive of his/her boss (emotional and practical support), but who can also think independently.

Effective followers contribute when they can positively identify either strengths or weaknesses of the project, when the follower brings a different point of view to the team, and when the leader can rely on his/her followers. If a boss sees followership in his staff we can say he has won the lottery! Although being a follower is not always considered a good quality, big companies need followers more than leaders! As thriving companies have one boss to every 40 followers on average.

Given that followership is based on many essential skills, I would like to conclude this short article with a question: “do you think a good leader is someone who has also been a good follower?”


Written by: Debora Penco