Follower and Relational Leadership

Assessment Criteria for Self                Assessment Criteria for Leadership

Reflection -Component A            Interview -Component B

Move Towards Follower-Centric Approaches

  • ‘Romance of Leadership’ (Meindl et al., 1985) highlight
  • Lack of proof of importance and impact of heroic leaders
  • Criticise the taken-for-granted assumption that leadership is something inherently good
  • Stress negative implications of an exaggerated belief in leaders
  • Encourage greater interest in followers and the exploration of the leader-follower relationship
  • Over the last two decades, we have seen more emphasis on this (Shamir et al., 2007 and Riggio et al. 2008):
  • Specific aspects of the followers’ knowledge, attributes and task will influence or moderate effective leadership
  • Follower characteristics can either neutralise or negate the need for leadership
  • What we see as leadership and what is effective is constructed by those who follow
  • Leadership is done by and for everybody and becomes the essence of being and acting in an organization
  • The leader-follower relationship is seen as socially co-constructed by leader and follower

Psychoanalytic approaches to leadership

  • Fantasies and subconscious emotions and desires related to early childhood experiences explain how followers accept and follow certain types of leaders
  • Intense emotional ties evoke ‘psychological regression to a child-like dependence’ – followers believe in omnipotence of the leader
  • Awakening from this fantasy of the heroic leader leads to disappointment

Implications for leadership:

  • followers can be susceptible to toxic or narcissistic leaders • A key leadership role (sets them apart from managers) is to:
  • contain and manage anxieties
  • be sensitive to the subconscious side of the leader-follower relationship
  • show true empathy and engage with followers at an emotional level- such management of emotion is very complex

Relational approaches to leadership

  • Emergent field of leadership studies focusses less on the separate role of leader and follower but on the co-produced relational process itself
  • The relational process  of leadership is seen as social, cognitive and political (Hosking, 2011: 456)
  • Leader and followers construct who they are in relation to the context they are in, thus constructing the context
  • A relational leader is somebody who is engaged in true dialogue and who is morally and relationally responsive and responsible
  • Relational leadership involves working with the fluid, co-constructed nature of leaderfollower relations by encouraging multiple dialogue, working with different, fluid notions of self and inviting different views and actions rather than imposing consensus.