Followers in your organisation

Management expert Barbara Kellerman feels that while leadership in organisation gets lot of importance, followership which is equally important usually gets neglected. Collapse of communist regimes, Arab Spring etc. has shown power of followership.


Barbara has identified five different kinds of followers. They are…

Isolates- These are usually not aware of what is going around them, they do not care about leaders and know little about them. Isolates are most likely to be found in large companies, where they can easily disappear in the maze of cubicles, offices, departments, and divisions. Their attitudes and behaviours attract little or no notice from those at the top levels of the organization as long as they do their jobs.

Bystanders-These are free riders deliberately standing aside and disengaged, both from their leaders and from their groups or organizations. They may go along passively when it is in their self-interest to do so, but they are not internally motivated to engage in an active way. Their withdrawal also amounts to tacit support for whoever and whatever constitutes the status quo ex. People who refuse to intervene when a crime is being committed – commonly referred to as the Genovese syndrome or the bystander effect.

Participants- These followers clearly support their leaders and organizations or clearly oppose them, they care enough to invest some of what they have (time or money) to try to make an impact ex. physicians and scientists who supported CEO of Merck Raymond Gilmartin on Vioxx, inspite of adverse publicity.

Activists- These followers are eager, energetic, and engaged. They work hard either on behalf of their leaders or to undermine and even unseat them. Ex. Anti – Activist supporting Hindi agitation in South or when Paul Wolfowitz ran into trouble as president of the World Bank, it was the activists among his staffers who led the charge against him.


Diehards-These followers are deeply devoted to their leaders, or they may be strongly motivated to oust their leaders by any means necessary. They exhibit an all-consuming dedication to someone or something they deem worthy ex. devotion of top Nazi leaders to Hitler esp. Josef Goebbels who remained close Hitler till end, shortly after the Hitler committed suicide, Goebbels and his wife took their lives along with those of their six children. Without Hitler, they considered life not worth living.

Take stock of your subordinates and see which category of followers they belong to.





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