With week three came my fist practical taste of teamwork in Mgmt 300 and I found it to my liking. Not only did my team get positive results but worked cohesively and with minimal friction despite being one of the weakest teams on paper, and I could not help but wonder how this has come about. At first I was frustrated I will admit; I had little confidence in my leader and even less so in my ability to glibly follow said leader having myself been a leader in the past. Then along came Robert Kelley. Kelley's (1988) reading allowed me a different perspective; that which emphasises the commitment and competence of team followers in order to achieve our goals through individual judgement and decision making. I really took this reading to heart and reflected on my prejudices surrounding followership.
I've both lead teams and been a member of teams in the past. I don't flick a switch and change my skills or values based on my position, and yet being a 'follower' seemed to me to be a bad thing. why? Kelley (1988 pg 146) points out that "our stereotyped but inarticulate definitions of leadership and followership shape our expectations". I found that I myself perceive traits of followers to be negative with poor connotations inexplicably linked to the word. Things like laziness, lack of drive or effort, even the nickname calling them sheep springs to mind which only serves to reinforce this perceived lack of self will and motivation. This has lead me to question leadership itself. Do I want to be a leader to make my team better? or do I simply want to avoid being labeled a 'follower'?
So what have I learnt you ask. The Kelley reading in particular (easily one of the most interesting in my university career) has made me reflect on what it means to be a follower and why I myself don't like being a follower. There's is no reason why I cannot be both a follower and good team member if that is what is necessary. At times during the week I may not have agreed with what my CEO said, but being a follower isn't necessarily about disagreeing with them nor blindly doing what they say. An effective follower can help "keep a leader honest-and out of trouble" (Kelley 1988 pg 146) by proving their individual effectiveness and judgement. I learnt being a follower isn't a death sentence for myself or my team and I can take from Mgmt 300 a true understanding of teamwork from all perspectives.
Kelley, R. E. (1988). In praise of followers. Harvard Business Review, 66(6), 142--148