Evidence that the best leaders are also followers

“Followership,” 6 Group explained, is a new management philosophy which places emphasis on following the lead of those traditionally “lower down an organisational hierarchy”.

Having evaluated over 75 corporate transformational changes and interviewed more than 300 senior executives across Europe in two years, it found that in many cases the best leaders made use of followership.

Talking about the research, James Beazley, managing director of 6 Group, suggested that previous reports failed to take the effects of followership into account. At the end of the day, he said, the company found it was the skill most likely to create success in large-scale transformation projects.

“Artificial intelligence is increasingly removing ‘hard’ aspects of leadership such as facts, metrics and analysis,” Beazley explained. “What is increasingly in demand are the ’soft’ aspects of leadership which include visioning, collaborating, enabling, inspiring and motivating.

“To bring about cultural and transformative change, it is widely known that you need to change people’s mindsets, which then leads to a change in feelings and emotions. This ultimately leads to a change in behaviour.

“We found that the most successful organisations going through change take the approach of having the right team aligned to taking the lead in each key competency. Followership is the recognition that leaders can’t do it all and there is strong evidence that the best leaders are in fact following others.”

It follows on from a book written by Barbara Kellerman, How Followers are Creating Change and Changing Leaders, which makes clear that being a follower doesn’t make you a sheep. In fact, focussing so much on your own leadership will prevent you from making use of employees’ creativity and problem-solving skills.

Similarly, Jim Collins’ Good to Great unveiled that followership was a quality “level five” employers – those with great leadership skills – possessed. Collins had researched Fortune 500 companies listed between 1965 and 1995. He claimed that companies which found the most success had a certain type of leader at the helm.

Essentially, they were a “paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will much like Lincoln and Socrates.” What’s more, he explained that followers were more likely to think of the business instead of themselves as they could acknowledge their wrongdoings and let staff take the lead when need be.

Share this story

Close
Menu
Send this to a friend