The Organization is Flat and Friendly: The Genesis of Leadership and Followership Thought To The Interdependence Continuum to
In The World is Flat, Thomas L. Friedman (2005) takes a look at how globalization is leveling the playing field in commerce. Friedman suggests that this new global frontier shifts companies from a top-down vertical platform to a horizontal relationship where geography, time and historical separations are no longer relevant. Concurrently, this horizontal paradigm is finding its way into the business organizational structure. The civil rights movement set the stage for the first shift away from the traditional business as ususal. The 1980s and 1990s saw further business changes through economic globalization and the widespread introduction to the internet. To adapt to this new economy and unprecedented access to information, organizations began to decentralize authority and empower employees just to keep up.
The evolution of leadership and followership studies has mirrored this flattening. Almost 200 years ago, leadership research concentrated solely on innate qualities that made men great leaders. Leaders were born, not made. Trait leadership followed where men had qualities that made them leaders. In the 1940s, this trait-based theory gave way to behavior studies, then to situational studies. By the mid-1980s alternative, theories began to surface exploring how followers might impact leader success. The lines and divisions between leadership and followership roles began to blur.
By the mid-1990s the internet became a common household amenity and the average American had unlimited access to information. Today, almost 75 percent of U.S. households have internet access (Internet World Stats, n.d.). Generation Y is the first generation born in the internet age to enter the workforce, and employees are more empowered than ever. These changes are a far cry from the first decade of the 20th century where automation of industry, production lines, and bureaucratic hierarchies were just gaining a foothold as the new American business structure. The top-down vertical organizational model that has dominated business since leadership research began is phasing out in favor of employee empowerment and leader servantship. The rapid change in economies, societies, and communications is leading this business transformation. The question is what do these changes hold for the organization, its leaders, and followers for 2010 and beyond?
Statement of the Purpose
The purpose of this paper is to examine the historical development of leadership theory, the rising interest in followership research, the shift from the all-powerful leader mentality to the employee-inclusive organization, and the implications for future leadership and followership relationships.
Definition of Terms
- Alternative Theories of Leadership
- These theories are those that include an inter-personal element where followers are also included in the leadership paradigm.
- Behavioral Theory of Leadership
- Behavioral Theories suggest leadership is behaviors that can be taught.
- Flat Organization, Structure
- A flat organization is one there is less top to bottom hierarchies and more horizontal.
- It is the term used for subordinates or employees.
- Generation Y
- The generation born from 1980 to 1999.
- Great Man Theory
- This theory claimed men were leaders because they were born to be.
- Horizontal Organization
- Information Age
- The age of the internet.
- Millennials Generation
- This is another term for Generation Y.
- Situational Leadership
- These theories propose that the leader determines his or her style of leadership based on the circumstances.
- Servant Leadership
- This theory focuses on the employee.
- Social Networking
- Trait Theory of Leadership
- These theories hypothesized that leader has special traits than non-leaders do not possess.
- Transformational Leadership
- This is a theory proposed by Robert Burns where the leader not only achieves goals but transforms the people he leads.
Significance of Paper
In the last century, theorists researched, examined, studied, and hypothesized about leadership to pinpoint what makes a leader a leader. Theories evolved that considered natural-born, inherent qualities, behaviors, circumstances and hybrids of each. By the 1980s, academic interest in leadership expanded to include followership and their impact on leadership and leaders. Concurrently, social upheaval, a globalized economy, and the information age ushered in a new organizational era which rapidly began to alter the patriarchal and often elitist model that dominated much of the 20th century.
Today, employees are more empowered than ever, manager positions are being eliminated in favor of horizontal organizations, and the next generation has more education and unprecedented access to information through social networking and the internet. As the 21st century enters its second decade, what are the implications for leadership, followership, the workforce and organizations?
This paper will examine leadership theories historically, the growing interest in followership, the effects of rapid social and economic change and information access, the Millennial Generation’s potential impact on organizations, and the leader-follower organizational outlook.
Review of Literature
Evolution of Leadership Thought
The study of leadership has spanned almost 200 centuries. Reviewing what is already known about leadership aids understanding of what makes a good leader. While leadership theories continue to evolve, there are several trends that characterize leadership thought over the late 19th through the early 21st centuries. These theories do not follow a rigid chronological pattern, but the concepts can be loosely grouped by era. These leadership themes are Great Man theory, trait theory, behavioral theory, contingency and situational theories, and alternative theories (Bolden, Goslin, Marturano, & Dennison, 2003). Great Men theories suggest some people are naturally leaders. Trait theory looks at how characteristics make the leader. Behavioral theories claim behaviors make the leader. Contingency and situational models suggest the interaction between the leader’s attributes and behaviors and the situation make the leader (Horner, n.d.). And the alternative theories deal with inter-personal aspects that focus on followership (Garrick, 2004).
19th Century Thought
Machiavelli is credited with writing the first sophisticated overview of leadership in his 1531 book The Prince but the term leadership did not come into use until the early 1800s (Garrick, 2004). Hegel (Garrick, 2004) wrote the first book on leadership in 1807 and, in 1847, Thomas Carlyle (Bolden et al., 2003) introduced the Great Man theory where the capacity to lead was inherent and leaders were born, not made. The term “man” was intentional as this theory was based on Western and military culture where business was almost exclusively led by men. This theory assumes great leaders were heroic, of extraordinary character and destined to lead. These men shaped the course of human history and societal evolutions (Garrick, 2004). The Great Man theory led to the rise of trait theory in the 20th century.
Early 20th Century Leadership Theories
By the early 1900s, the first research on leadership was conducted introducing trait theories and was similar to the Great Man theory. Trait theorists believed leaders had certain qualities and characteristics that separated them from non-leaders. These inborn attributes made these men better suited to lead and concentrated on what is an effective leader rather than on how to lead effectively (Bolden, et al., 2003). Qualities and characteristics were identified to determine the right people to lead. Leader physical traits were identified as tall, young to middle aged, handsome and energetic. Social traits included tactful, charming, popular, diplomatic, charismatic and cooperative. Personality traits included self-confidence, adaptability, emotional stability and assertiveness. Other characteristics included initiative, result-oriented, driven to excel, accepting of responsibility (Garrick, 2004).
At the time trait theories emerged, the Industrial Revolution has already shifted the U.S. economy from agriculture to industry. This new business structure favored the automation and routinization of industry and created a new leadership paradigm whereby the “common” masses could gain power because of their skills. The change carved out a leadership role for the average man. German sociologist Max Weber (Stone & Patterson, 2005) notes the parallels between the growth of the automated industry and the proliferation of hierarchical, bureaucratic forms of organization (Stone and Patterson, 2005). While the machine routinized production, this bureaucracy routinzed administrative processes (Maorgan, as cited in Stone & Patterson, 2005). Weber feared automation would replace the human aspect of business and foster too many levels of leadership. But management theories embraced this new model and began a protracted reinforced of the machine over man philosophy.
When trait research failed to demonstrate much if any correlation between traits and leader effectiveness (Garrick, 2004) and measuring traits proved difficult and elusive (Bolden et al., 2003), Lewin, Lippitt and White (Garrick, 2004) introduced the idea that leadership was behaviors that could be learned. By the 1940s, behavioral research emerged. Weber’s (Stone & Patterson, 2005) focus on behavior, the role of authority and the charismatic leader and Stodgill’s (Bolden et al., 2003) work on situational demands determining leadership started the trend. While not a theory per se, McGregor’s (Bolden et al., 2003) Theory X and Theory Y Managers influenced behavioral leadership theory suggesting leadership strategies are influenced by the leader’s view on human nature. The different managers held different beliefs about employees where the X manager’s assumptions led to autocratic leadership while Y manager’s beliefs led to a participatory leadership style. The concept revolutionized how managers viewed employees by combining human nature with inputs and outputs (Rost, 1993).
Leader characteristics in behavioral theories morphed from innate to identifiable and teachable. As leadership styles could be learned, behavioral theorists created leadership training programs. But these theories also had drawbacks. The research may have helped managers develop leadership behaviors but the theory failed to provide direction for what is effective leadership under and across different circumstances (Rost, 1993). Thus, scholars continued to consider other philosophies.
In the mid-1960s Fred Fiedler introduced the Contingency Theory which suggests there are two types of leaders: one that focuses on tasks and the other that focuses on relationships and that the situation determines which leader type will be the most effective. Critics note that factors other than leader orientation and situational favorability are needed for a thorough understanding of effective leadership (Rice & Kastenbaum, 1983).
Followership Emerges: Theories of the late 20th Century
As early as 1933, management scholar Mary Parker Follett (Hopen, 2010) encouraged more research into the role of followers. But almost 40 years would pass before leadership theories actively included followers and their willingness, consent, and effectiveness effects on a leader’s success (Bjugstad et al., 2006). Bjugstad, Thach, Thompson, & Morris (2006) suggest that so little research has been conducted on followers because of the stigma associated with the term “follower” and the misconception that leadership is more important.
In the early 1970’s, several situational theories began to include followers as a component of leadership success. Robert House’s (1971) Path-Goal Theory introduced followers as part of the leadership paradigm suggesting leadership is an interaction between the objectives of the leader and the followers. Vroom, Yetton, and Jago’s (Garrick, 2004) Leader-Participation Model acknowledged the follower as a factor in leadership decision-making. The Situational Leadership Model (SLM) created by Hersey and Blanchard (Horner, 1997) professed that the leader must be flexible, able to adapt the leadership style to the situation at hand, and access the maturity level of the employee or group to determine the best leadership style. SLM, while popular with corporations, had critics. A key drawback included the absence of a well thought-out rationale to support the claims and the recommendations for leader behavior were vulnerable to ambiguity, inconsistency and incompleteness. Furthermore, the usefulness of matching behaviors that worked best for the circumstances crumbled as leaders had to refer to decision trees or charts to figure out how to behave. With an infinite number of possible situations, creating a guide matching up behaviors in all situations proved impossible (Leadership Theories, 2001).
By the late 1970s, many researchers concluded that the past theories were all too grounded to some degree in the traditional, pragmatic, linear and hierarchical worldview. The theories were all more or less dominated by focus on (male) leaders and showed little interest in followers. Views were mostly analytical, technocratic, utilitarian, achievement oriented, and a hold over of the mythical great leader. Moreover, leadership research was often conducted from the researcher’s point of view of his or her field. Perspectives across fields were omitted leaving leadership research defined by individual subjects rather than universal outlooks. (Doyle & Smith, 2001). Beset by shortcomings, alternative leadership theories emerged.
Burns’ (Doyle & Smith, 2001) model, known as transformational leadership, introduced an ethical and moral dimension to leadership that had not been included before his 1978 work. This work also introduced that real leadership not only achieves goals and creates change in the environment but changes the people involved (Leadership Theory, 2001). Greenleaf’s (1998) research paralleled Burns but included “Servant Leadership” where leaders support the actions and ideas of followers rather than dictate to them top down. Both theories focus on followers but transformational leadership focuses on followers on behalf of organizational goals while servant leadership focuses on service to the follower (Garrick, 2004). Rost (1993) suggest that all leadership theory throughout the years has always been and continues to be flawed because no one has a definitive definition for what it is.
Leadership versus Management Mix-up
The lack of a true definition of leadership has confounded the differences between management and leadership. While differences between leader and manager roles is worthy of more scrutiny than this paper can provide, a capsulated look will help distinguish between the functions. DeGrosky (n.d.) explains this mix-up is justifiable as even experts regarded leadership and good management as the same thing until the 1980s. Leadership was even considered a management subset. Today, most experts agree that management and leadership are two complementary yet distinct action systems (Kotter as cited by Ambley, n.d.). Kotter (as cited by DeGrosky, n.d.) indicates “the purpose of leadership is to bring about movement and useful change, while managers provide stability, consistency, order and efficiency.” Zaleznik (1977) suggests business leaders have much more in common with artists, creative thinkers and scientist than they do with managers. By not making the distinction between management and leadership, people erroneously equate leadership with authority. As a result, many organizations have people who are managing the organization also placed in an authority position although they may not have the ability to lead effectively (DeGrosky, n.d.).
Zaleznik (1977) goes so far as to suggest that leaders and managers are simply very different kinds of people who think and act differently and have different motivation and personal histories (Zalenik, 1977, p. 75). Zaleznik (1977) describes the differences as follows: “For those who become managers, a survival instinct dominates the need for risk, and with that instinct comes and ability to tolerate mundane practical work” (Zalenik, 1977, p. 78), while “Leaders tend to feel separate from their environment. They may work in organizations, but they never belong to them” (Zalenik, 19877, p. 81). The differences as leaders inspire and managers measure and both are necessary for success. Without leadership, management is left to simply defend the status quo. Without management, leadership cannot create lasting change (Kalvar, 2006).
In Praise of Followership
Historically, leaders have been cast heroically while followers have been depicted as powerless, drab masses. Even Follett, who championed taking a better look at the role of followers, continued on to describe the early 20th century business leader as “a masterful man who by the sheer force of his personality carried everything before him” (Hopen, 2010). As late as 1974, Holland (1992) articulated the era’s view on followers as "nonleaders ... an essentially passive residual category.”
Robert Kelley’s (1988) In Praise of Followers brought the concept of valued follower to the forefront. The 1988 work explored how business is so consumed with leadership and searching for leaders that the importance of who those leaders lead –followers – is largely overlooked. Companies succeed partly on “how well their leaders lead but also partly on the basis of how well their followers follow” (Kelley, 1988, p. 2). Furthermore, stereotypes have erroneously perpetuated that leaders are separated from followers based on character or intelligence when in reality effective leaders and effective followers are often ”the same people playing different parts at different times of the day” (Kelley, 198, p. 6). Most people are more often followers than leaders but the obsession with leadership ignores the importance and nature of the follower.
Beyond the Praise: Followership Acceptance Continues to Lag
The attention to leaders to the exclusion of followers was still mostly intact by the early 1990s (Hollander, 1992). By the mid-21st century, Bjugstad et al. (2007) found that Amazon.com’s website had 95,220 books and articles on leadership with only 792 on followership. Consequently, leadership and its impact continue to overshadow followership and follower contributions. Townsend and Gebhardt (2003) indicate leadership is a behavior and not a position, and Hollander (1992) suggests leadership is a process. These statements help separate the person from the role yet this division has not trickled throughout businesses. The likely reasons are the industrial age’s command and control structure, which dominated leadership thought for over 150 years, and the stigma associated with “follower (Bjugstad et. al, 2006). More telling are the results from Williams and Miller’s (2002) survey of over 1,600 executives from a variety of industries. While more than one-third of those surveyed were also followers in some capacity, almost all of the executives failed to admit their follower roles.
Today’s business schools may also be partly culpable for perpetuating leadership over followership thought. Harvard University and Stanford University MBA programs, ranked number 1 and number 2 respectively, do not have a category for successful followers in their curriculums. Harvard has Leadership and Organizational Behavior (Harvard University Business School, n.d.) while Stanford offers Human Resource Management, Organizational Behavior, and Strategic Leadership (Stanford University Business School, n.d.). Each of these courses is designed to teach students how to manage and motivate people, how group dynamics work, and how to resolve conflict. The impression is that students need this instruction to prepare for their leadership positions, not their followership roles. Harvard comes close to mentioning followership in their leadership course where an expected outcome is “establishing productive relationships with peers and seniors over whom the manager has no formal authority” (Harvard University Business School, n.d.).
Leaders and Followers are Interdependent and Integrated
As Moore and Boyd (2010) note, the leader as heroic and the cause for a corporation’s success still permeates business culture yet the flattened organizational structure, reminiscent of a traditional pyramid organizational chart compressed, requires leaders and followers to depend on each more than ever to succeed. Compounding the heroic leader myth are leadership programs that continue to emphasize self-absorption through self-awareness, self-development, and self-improvement which causes leaders to become self-occupied with their own identity and not that of followers or other influences (Küpers 2007). Yet, leadership and followership research is shifting towards a more integrated and united approach. Townsend and Gebhardt (2003) suggests today’s follower must move “seamlessly” between leadership and followership roles and add a new dimension called teamship. In teamship, both leader and follower meet in between where role designations are superseded. Teamship is interplay between leader and follower with both taking on alternating roles to accomplish a shared goal.
Social, Global and Informational Changes Impact the Leader-Follower Continuum
Dolan and Raich (2009) claim the world is in the last cycle of a great transformation. From the Stone Age, mankind has been in the age of dominance. By the last half of the 20th century, a new cycle began where Western culture’s paradigm of dominance will be replaced by one of partnership and care. In similar veins, other researchers predict the old ways of doing business are outdated. Hollander (1992) envisions more latitude for inputs from all sources, especially employees. Bjugstad et al. (2006) suggests the control and command structure of the industrial age has been replaced by the flexibility of the information age. Küpers (2007) notes that corporate scandals, growing awareness of social, ethical and environmental issues, increasing demotivation created the need for a different kind of leadership. This new construct must be an integral framework where leadership and followership micro and macro dimensions are interrelated and approached simultaneously rather than isolated and separated.
Brown (as cited in Küpers, 2007) surmises that due to growing social networks and the growing empowerment of followers through easily accessed information, the traditional top-down organizational model has eroded. Leaders are no longer the sole source of vital information on companies or their competitors and incidents like Enron and WorldCom have created employee mistrust of top leadership. Socially, the family structure has more single and working parents than ever which may create environments where individuals value traditional leaders less (Maccoby, 2004). This revised socio-economic model may be part of the respect attrition for authority figures overall. According to Meyer (as cited in Hollander, 1992), adherence to anachronistic systems of the leader-follower relationship and the oversimplified role of leadership ignore the changing problems and complexities of organizations. As empirical findings and methodological and theoretical developments demonstrate, conventional approaches to leadership continue to have weaknesses and limitations (Küpers, 2007).
About the New Age Worker: Generation Y
As today’s 59 million working Baby Boomers move closer to retirement and the Generation X workforce continues to hold at around 40 million, the newest and largest generation since the Baby Boomers to enter the labor force is Generation Y. Generation Y, also know as Millennials, Generation Next, GenY, and Digital Natives (Swenson, 2008), was born between 1977 and 1994 and totals 76 million people (NSA Recruitment, 2007). Approximately 63 million Generation Yers will be in the workforce by 2014, far outnumbering the projected 48 million Baby Boomers and 41 million Generation Xers (NAS Recruitment). Descriptions of Generation Y include well-educated, globally aware, technologically savvy (Swenson, 2007), enthusiastic about social responsibility, and prefer collaborative work (Ferri-Reed, 2010).
While the youngest members of Generation Y have yet to enter the workforce, researchers as well as large corporations are evaluating who this generation is and how they might impact business. The first generation to grow up with the internet, Generation Yers’ outlooks and expectations are influenced by the internet. Melik (as cited by Swensen, 2007) suggests that since Millennials have grown up in a connected world, they have an outstanding ability to multitask and are versatile communicators. They communicate through technology but are savvy at communication skills generally. Moore and Boyd (2010) indicate this generation has an entertainment orientation where they expect everything to be entertaining, instant, easy, and fun. When educated at school or on the job, learning needs to be relevant to their everyday life. As expected, they relate well to popular media.
At work, Generation Yers have difference expectations than their Baby Boomer and Generation X co-workers. Generation Yers expect full disclosure, short-term careers, frequent training and feedback, challenges, to be at the top right away, to be paid for what they do, clearly stated goals, to give their own input, close and frequent contact with supervisors. In contrast, Baby Boomers do not job hop, place high value on a career, and will sacrifice family to get ahead while Generation Xers work hard to be paid well, are more loyal to their profession than to their employer, and are concerned about a fulfilling life. While the Baby Boomers led revolution against society and their parents, Generation Y is heavily influenced by their parents (NAS Recruitment). The internet has also made Generation Yers geared towards celebrity and its trappings as evidenced by a Washington Post surveyed of Harvard Students. The survey found that over 30 percent believed they would be famous while other surveys of 21st century teenagers show that they significantly choose fame over all other desires including intelligence and wealth (Choi & Berger, 2009).
Corporate polls illustrate a different view on the Generation Yers in the workforce. According to a 2007 report by the National Leadership Council for Liberal Education, almost 63 percent of employers in the U.S. say college graduates lack essential skills to succeed in today’s global economy (Banerji, 2007). Hewlett Packard’s Wayne C. Johnson points out that students have to be able to work in diverse teams to solve complex problems yet most do not know how to do this to be effective in a global environment (Banerji, 2007). In a program titled “It’s time to build a 21st century workforce, conference honoree and Boeing CEO and President W. James McNereny discussed the academic performance gap between American students and students in other countries. McNerney indicated that the global economy needs employees with a broad combination of technological sophistication, creativity, ability to communicate, analytical aptitude and the ability to work with others and the U.S. is facing an impending shortage of employees with these skills (McLymont, 2009).
Tucker (2009) reports that 30 percent of this Information Age generation reads at the lowest literacy levels and that literacy declined 20 percent since this generation was born in the early 1980s. Nicholas Carr (2008) laments “Is Google making us stupid?” in the Atlantic, while Forman (Carr, 2008) suggestes “… we risk turning into pancake people, spread wide and thin as we connect with that vast network of information accessed by the mere touch of a button.” On the upswing, the National Endowment for the Arts (Tucker, 2009) reports that for the first time in twenty years, young people 18-24 are reading more literature. With only predictions to suggest the legacy of Generation Y, for now, the group appears to be the chimera of today.
The Leader-Follower Landscape in the 21st Century
The first decade of the 21st century was tumultuous at best; it brought the September 11th terrorist attack in New York, Hurricane Katrina, the fall of Sadam Hussein, the global outbreak of H1N1 influenza virus, and the conviction of Bernie Madoff for the largest ever Ponzi scheme (Moore & Boyd, 2005). Moore and Boyd (2005) suggest studying the events of 2000-2010 can provide several lessons for leader education. Firstly, leadership students have changed. These learners have grown up in a Survivor, The Apprentice, and social media environment so they view everything through an entertainment platform. Secondly, the world is connected more than ever as seen through the growth of MySpace, Facebook, Twitter where people learn and can also have a voice. Thirdly, the myth of the hero-leader still endures. The media quickly dubs successful leadership as heroic. And lastly, leadership is still seen as the major force behind an organization’s success or failure. Here again, the media is quick to pounce on failure and missing ethics.
Other researchers suggest that today’s business organization and leaders are faced with more than just business as usual objectives. Global, social, diplomatic and economic problems are added to organizational concerns. Corporate scandals, pollution, wars, terrorism, global warming, and economic divide; ethnic violence, crime, the growing underclass, excess labor force, educational systems failures (Karakas, 2009) ; unsustainable lifestyles, overpopulation, energy problems (Dolan & Raich, 2009) are today’s pressing global ills. Simultaneously, today’s followers have a healthy mistrust of leaders, expect to change jobs as opportunities come along, and expect to lead themselves in the near future.
Leadership and follower theorists continue to put the onus of integration on leadership shoulders. Marshall Goldsmith (Hopen, 2010) writes in The 21st Century Leader that the new leader will not view their position as one of authority rank and file but one of responsibility to the stakeholders. Instead of providing right answers, new leaders will ask the right questions of followers they have empowered to partner with them. These leaders will form communities of colleges rather than a company of employees held back by traditional hierarchical relationships.
Summary and Conclusions
Centuries of command and control leadership and the “heroic” leader ideology are difficult to change despite the need for a new paradigm. After 150 years of leadership research, concentrating on what is a leader and who makes good leaders is still in vogue and is still indefinite. Older theories look at the person to determine leader characteristics while newer ones take into account extenuating circumstances and other variables such as situation, subordinate maturity, and employee willingness and consent. Over the last twenty years, a small body of research has focused on employees as part of the leadership dynamic introducing the term “followership.” Concurrently, the economy globalized, the information age commenced, and traditional organizational structures flattened. Leaders became followers who became leaders and the middle manager role of connecting the boss to the subordinate and vice versa was replaced by employee teamwork and group projects and servant leaders. The Information Age ushered in the always connected, always online, Generation Y, who are either coddled too much to be effective or brilliantly brazen enough to change the world depending on the source. The transformation of the workplace since the late 20th century has created an intriguing overlap of traditional and servant leaders, pyramid and flat organizational structures, automated and empowered employees, and a retiring generation working alongside an entitled generation.
Leadership theories have demonstrated that leadership encompasses almost too many variables to pinpoint exactly what makes a good leader. And the combination of domains needed to configure a comprehensive leadership theory is daunting - anthropology, sociology, education, politics, and psychology (Rost, 1992). As the 21st century enters its second decade, the leadership and followership landscape will probably continue to move toward a less leader-led and more team-driven and oriented construct. It is conceivable that just as the Baby Boomers ushered in social change, the Generation Yers will continue to usher in relational changes in business. The Generation Yers wants and demands may be tempered by pressing global issues and conditions. Geopolitical conflicts, economies of other countries, environmental concerns, and finite natural resources allocation will demand more attention and more creative solutions and more international collaboration than ever before. And these issues will most likely spill over into the business arena during the Generation Yers term. They will need business solutions for these social concerns. It is conceivable that the archetype of today’s leader and follower relationship will morph into team leaders and specialist followers by time Generation Yers begin to retire.
In this author’s opinion, it will be difficult to create the holy grail of leadership or followership theories as both are influenced by the era in which the theory exists. Being dependent on the human element means these theories cannot and will not ever be constant or static. Additionally, using the words leader and follower continue to reinforce the notion of authority and minion. Another drawback for leadership and followership study is that the internet has made stars of ordinary people through YouTube and other social networks. Today, no one wants to be the follower. Yet a deeper look at human nature makes it clear that humans are a species of followers. Christ, Mohammad and Buddha have had followers for millennia. Celebrity endorsers and fan club memberships prove people follow the lead of others often.
People who played pick up sports as children understand the simple leadership and followership concept. The best players choose the teams. Even the last player picked made the team and was happy to be there. Everyone understood and played their role. The leader was chosen by virtue of his skills by his peers. Unskilled or lesser talented players never expected to lead or felt badly for not being the leader. While this scenario is overly simplistic, the key here is that leader selection was never arbitrary or unwarranted and followers were not taken for granted. Everybody on the team was necessary for the team to win and still counted when the team lost. A look at elite sports team leadership selection (team captain) and follower (other players) and leader (team captain) interactions may hold some insight for business leadership and followership thought.
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