“Effective followers and effective leaders are often the same people playing different parts at different hours of the day”
Robert Kelley, Carnegie Mellon Professor of Organizational Behavior and author of “The Power of Followership”
Last month, I wrote about leadership. But what is a leader without followers?
Followership has been described as the ability to: take direction well; get in line behind a program; be part of a team; and follow-through on what is expected by people in subordinate positions to those in senior ones.
According to CMU professor Robert Kelley who developed the above matrix of followership styles, “70%-90% of all company work is done by people in follower roles.” Yet while followership dominates our organizations, books on leadership far outsell books on followership. Indeed, I did a simple search on Amazon.com and found “over 80,000” vs. 172 books on leadership and followership, respectively – for a ratio of 465:1.
Dr. Kelley goes on to describe “the reality is that most of us are more often followers than leaders. Even when we have subordinates, we still have bosses. For every committee we chair, we sit as a member on several others.”
Practicing good followership enables one to develop as a leader. These skills include observing how leaders carry themselves, how they manage their responsibilities, how they communicate and make decisions, and how they learn from their mistakes and those of others to grow. Studies by Dr. Kelly find these “exemplary followers” share several essential qualities:
- Manage themselves well. Exemplary followers think independently, notice and solve problems, possess trusted knowledge and good judgment, and follow-through on agreed upon tasks.
- Committed to the organization and to a purpose, principle, or person outside themselves. What distinguishes exemplary followers from leaders is not intelligence or character, but the roles each play. They see themselves as the equals of the leaders they follow except in terms of line responsibility. At the same time, they see that the people they follow are following the lead of others, and they try to appreciate the goals and needs of the team and the organization.
- Strong work ethic. Exemplary followers are good workers. They are diligent, enthusiastic, motivated, committed, pay attention to detail, and make the effort.
- Ego management. Exemplary followers have good interpersonal skills. Their success relates to performance and goal achievement, not personal recognition and self-promotion.
- Moral courage and a strong sense of ethics. Exemplary followers have the courage to feel empowered to speak-up and provide honest feedback to leadership to shape their views when they feel the leader’s agenda is flawed or worse (think surgical time-outs, not Dwight Schrute).
- Build their competence and focus their efforts for maximum impact. Exemplary followers take on extra work gladly. They are good judges of their own strengths and weaknesses, and they contribute well to teams, seeing co-workers and bosses as colleagues rather than as competitors.
How well followers follow is as important to the success of APS, if not more so, than how well APS Council and officers lead. Indeed, APS would not function as a vibrant international community of scientists and scholars without the support of its volunteer committee members and special interest groups. This year, APS has been especially blessed to have exemplary followers who have also become great leaders.
I can’t possibly name all of our exemplary followers, but I would like to single-out a few:
- Sarah Pressman, Annual Meeting Program Chair. Having the largest projected attendance in at least a decade didn’t just happen by luck. Sarah has surrounded herself with a terrific Program Committee who organized our Social Media Subcommittee (Claudia Trudel-Fitzgerald, chair); Scientific Salons (Brooke Jenkins, chair), Young Investigator Colloquium (David Krantz, chair), and reviewed a record number of paper submissions.
- Wijo Kop, Editor-in-Chief, Psychosomatic Medicine, and Vicki White, Managing Editor, for mobilizing over a thousand volunteer peer reviewers to adjudicate the hundreds and hundreds of manuscripts submitted to the Journal each year in a timely fashion, while adding new features and increasing publication’s impact factor!
Finally, I look forward to meeting you in Vancouver for what I hope will be one of the largest and BEST APS ANNUAL MEETINGS. If you are a pragmatic APS follower or not yet very involved with the Society, consider becoming an exemplary follower this year. Find out more at #APS2019Van!
Bruce L. Rollman, MD, MPH
President, APS 2018/19
PS: Annual Meeting Update. I am delighted to report 549 people registered for our Annual Meeting before the close of Early Registration. This is an 86% increase over early registrations for our 2018 Louisville meeting (N=295) and a 26% increase over our previous record, 2014 San Francisco (N=436) which had 698 registered attendees. Vancouver is on track to be our largest APS meeting yet. Don’t miss it!