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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

4 Comments

  1. You set up a really interesting question about being a leader of a follower. That is a great starting point; you really have me hooked and wanting to know more.

    To make this a great reflection it would be good to have some details/examples of when you've been a leader (and how you have perceived your followers) and when you have been a follower (and, in hindsight, what type of follower you were). That would give you a good basis for moving around Kolb's cycle (or whatever framework for learning you are using).

    You might then move to trying to answer/address your question.

    That way, you could ground your 'solution' of being an effective follower in describing some concrete actions you might take in your team (and then later report back how that went ... two journals for the price of price of one).

    If you do want to pursue this theme further, you might look at "The Links between Followership and the Experiential Learning Model: Followership Coming of Age". I've only skimmed it, but you might be able to use it to advance your thinking/learning.

    Overall, you might ponder if final paragraph needs to have the second paragraph integrated into it, and further expand with some examples/experiences of you in leadership and followership roles.

    1. Cheers for your thoughts peter. Reading over my journal again I see what you mean about needing a bit more depth and examples to fully explain what I learnt last week. I was actually just reading my marketing textbook and came across a statement that again portrayed following as negative characteristic in comparison to leadership. Normally I wouldn't have even noticed the comment but seeing the same issue in a textbook for an entirely different course has proved just how far the stereotype of the 'follower' has become ingrained perhaps in business as a whole? All in all a really interesting topic.

  2. Although there were a couple of little errors such as capitalisation of "why" in the second paragraph, I saw this journal as the best I had read so far - well done.

    I particularly enjoyed reading the second paragraph. I am the same as you as I don't "flick a switch and change my skills or values based on my position" but this made me think of people that might. I know people in which it was either their way or the highway. If they weren't the leader they knew they could sit there and drag the chain to try and undermine the leader's attempt to lead the group. I think these types of people also believed that followers were sheep (as you put it) and that their roles were unimportant which allowed them to be lazy and drag the chain. Personally I like to help other people out and I also hate losing which has probably been key to my view on those who aren't leaders not just being followers. I always give my best so that the group as a whole can succeed. 

    I think a couple of real life examples would cement your points as it gives, somebody like me, something to relate to. It allows us to say "oh yes I've seen that before" as it paints a picture in our minds.

    Well done and great journal reflection.

  3. I have to agree with Timothy, that this is a really excellent journal. I really enjoyed that you were able to integrate the Kelley reading throughout your journal, and it has clearly struck a chord with you, which is great to see. In saying that, perhaps bringing in another one of the readings could help you to elaborate on some examples of your previous leadership and team experiences, and how you think these may affect your thoughts about this paper. This would allow for further depth, and could link your paragraphs together well. I am really interested to hear about your experiences as a 'follower' and the way in which you deal with challenges and conflict as they arise. A really great journal and can't wait to read more!