Sample Dissertation Literature Review on Followership


The followership as a research topic has not been given enough attention as compared to leadership yet the success or failure of an organization depends on both leaders and followers. Followership is common at all levels of an organization as a reflection of leadership. The existence of leaders is dependent on the help of their followers. The amount of recognition given to followership should be equal to that awarded to leadership.

The study provides comprehensive overlook of the followership concept,  this recent research shows followership as a factor that functions independently in the relationship between followership and leadership. For this reason, the definition of followership will be supported by the role-based approach which entails viewing followers as variables that function and exist independently and leaders as variables dependent on or moderating the results of followership.

The study presents a substantial literature review on the aspects of followership as well as the most renowned approaches to the issue.



In the past, research studies that are related to organizations have been majorly focusing on leadership, and followers have received very little attention s. For a long time, leadership has been seen as being more valuable than followership. Many people strive to become leaders rather than followers, and so followership has been stigmatized (Bjugstad, Thach, Thompson, & Morris, 2006). Nevertheless, followers have of late been recognized as vital constituents of leadership. For the latter to exist, both followers and leaders should be present as they are known to go hand by hand.  The operation of leaders depends on their followers and the vice versa . Although the amount of recognition given to followers in the literature  on management and organization behavior is less than leaders’, the contribution of leaders towards the success of any organization is just 20%. On the other hand, followers contribute to 80% of the organizations’ achievements. The failure of an organization is dependent on both leaders and followers. Followership is common at all levels of an organization. Therefore, the subject of followership needs to be enhanced as it is of great importance for a deeper understanding of characteristics of followers, hence thorough knowledge of the process of leadership.

Literature Review

Multiple studies have been carried out to analyze followership from different points of view. These  research studies can be grouped into five approaches. One of the approaches is the leader-centric advance which views followers as people who receive or moderate their leaders’ authority (Uhl-Bien, Riggio, Lowe, & Carsten, 2014). The second approach, follower-centric , analyzes the perceptions that followers have towards their leaders. Thirdly, the relational view recognizes the mutual influence that followers and leaders have in the leadership process. Nevertheless, although the three approaches analyze followers as individuals, they do not focus on studying followership as a concept. The constructionist approach views leadership as a result of combined efforts of both leading and following. However, in the research the concept is viewed as such that functions independently.

Followership is a reflection of leadership. In fact, the existence of leaders is dependent on the help of their followers (Yung & Tsai, 2013). Leaders and followers relate in a way that somewhat looks like a little democracy. Therefore, the amount of recognition given to followership should be equal to that awarded to leadership. Since effective followership is a vital factor for the growth of an organization, there is a  need to evaluate the definition of followership, analyze the characteristics of a good follower and give suggestions on strategies for achieving effective followership.

It should be noted that for leadership to be effective, voluntary followership is paramount (Yung & Tsai, 2013). Thus, followers in levels of education and organizations should be greatly recognized and given more resources and attention for their development. Current leadership settings should adopt a culture which supports courageous followership. By doing so, the latter will be seen as a probable balance power for counteracting the effects of unfriendly leadership styles in the lives of organizations.

Historically, various cases have shown the power that brave followers who have overturned numerous events  and reflected  a bona fide voice of the people in difficult situations. Leaders, in turn,  have the responsibility of obtaining honest feedback from their followers. When leaders encourage and extract such information, there will be no punishment of followers who are seen as troublemakers or rebels in their organizations. Consequently, leadership and followership involve doing what is right, including speaking the right words and hearing them rightly. Therefore, leaders should be friendly to the seemingly troublesome followers because they are reliable sources of correct information (Yung & Tsai, 2013).

In a study to evaluate the performance of job and style of followership in the private Universities of Botswana, Oyetunji (2012) attempted to examine if the followership styles were significantly related to job performance. The researcher used random selection to come up with a sample of 102 participants from two private universities. The lecturers filled in questionnaires in which focus was put on followership and job performance in the academic institutions. From the data collected, it was clear that some of the major followership styles applied to private universities in Botswana were pragmatic, exemplary, alienated, and passive styles. Nevertheless, pragmatic followership style was found to be the most prominent amongst the lecturers.

The data collected from the research also showed that exemplary, alienated, and pragmatic followership styles were not related to job performance (Oyetunji, 2012). It was evident that the lecturers who demonstrated such followership styles had low job performance. The research also indicated that passive  style was strongly related job performance and the lecturers who adhered to it were high job performers. In addition, lecturers who indicated that they apply exemplary followership style had low job performance. However, the latter style has attractive characteristics which are believed to contribute to the improvement of performance of organizations as well as the attainment of their goals. According to the research, it is paramount for the department heads in the universities to be aware of the various followership styles, especially the ones that are most common amongst their lecturers (Oyetunji, 2012).

Academic literature has not sufficiently covered followership, and the researchers have also underappreciated the topic. In the dawn of information age and dynamic workplace changes, the study of followership is of great importance. Bjugstad et al. (2006) presented a new model which was used to match the styles of followership to leadership styles. The model shows how leaders can most effectively work with their followers and how the followers can come hand in hand with their leaders. A follower can be motivated through various ways. For instance, organization leaders should create an environment which focuses on producing desirable results and give performance-related feedback to their followers.

The current relationship between followers and leaders indicates that followers are motivated by what they individually want instead of what their leaders assume they want. In addition, leaders can also motivate their followers by respecting and trusting their abilities to effectively perform their duties and assist in the achievement of the company’s goals. When followers are motivated, they also become effective; an inspired follower is also successful. An effective follower manages him/herself, that is, he or she can determine his or her own goals and make a decision on the activity to do at any given time. Additionally, effective followers are usually committed to the organization that they work for and to a purpose outside their self-gain. An effective follower also strives to be competent, and their efforts are geared towards reaching higher performance levels. Lastly, effective followers think critically and independently since they possess courage, honesty, and credibility while performing their duties at the workplace (Bjugstad et al., 2006).

Evidence affirms that though the perception of followership is not new, its  image as a significant component of leadership is very recent (Favara Jr, 2009). Favara Jr. (2009) affirms that this contemporary acceptance of followership is enabling people to progress past traditional perspectives of organizational interrelation that take the task of followers as passive and fruitless. The contemporary perception has encouraged exploration into the synergistic relationship linking the task of leader and follower. In this regard, the legality of followership as a field of study in organizational psychology is starting to get highly acknowledged. The research by Favara Jr. (2009) was undertaken to assess followership approaches and their connection with work performance and satisfaction. The non-experiment research used a quantitative study design where a number of surveys returned comprised of 131 workers at an automotive manufacturing and engineering corporation in Midwestern.

The three standardized tools employed in the research by Favara Jr. (2009) encompass a questionnaire, “organizational citizenship behavior” scale, and the “job in general scale”. The findings of the study demonstrate that a considerable positive connection is evident among the employed organizational factors (job performance and satisfaction) and followership techniques. On this note, the findings of the research facilitate the theoretical approach of followership through the provision of the empirical proof required for the substantiation of future studies. The issue of followership cannot be simply disregarded any more since the transformations occurring in organizational structures and international cooperation have overstated the significance of the interplay concerning followers and leaders. Moreover, it is hard for an organization to succeed where leaders function in a vacuum as the successful function of both followership and leadership values is vital. Hence, it is imperative that modern companies should not just keep on nurturing successful leaders but also examine the operations of the follower.

In his study, Martin (2015) asserts that followers and leaders are held together in an intricate psychological network hence exist interdependently as followership becomes entrenched as a fundamental element in the bigger discipline of leadership. Leadership may be a strong force in the enhancement of the moral bravery of followers if leaders act as role models. Martin (2015) established that if leaders were to exhibit the vigor and motivation that they anticipate from the followers, such approaches would strongly influence the thinking and performance of followers. Additionally, the  study discovered that influences arise in charismatic and transformational styles of leadership where followers identify leaders as reliable and just. In the incidence of congruence, there is a better emotional atmosphere in the company where followers have a more affirmative insight of the organizational setting.

The article by Martin (2015) examines the empirical study that has been carried out for the determination of the details that have been presented and the conclusions that could be made in the field of followership. The researcher found an extensive accord on the significance of facilitating the follower-leader connection in the development of effective leaders and followers who are committed to the success of the company. Essentially, embracing the participative style of leadership, especially strengthening followers, demands that leaders uphold a high extent of emotional intelligence that calls for the facilitation of trust amid the followers, which boosts the follower-leader connection. This gives rise to the conclusion that emotional intelligence has an essential function in leadership and followership practices as it advances the generation of a strong leader-follower bond.

Mathur and Negi (2014) state that the entire world is experiencing fierce competition that makes it hard to address the changing circumstances successfully. Therefore, companies have to embrace teamwork and understand the benefits of operating in collaboration with one another, though that is not the only measure of success. Workers are supposed to be motivated to react readily on the right course to tackle the arising challenges effectively. Readiness amid the workers may be stimulated through the right form of leadership and followership. Through discussions of numerous styles of leadership that are appropriate for dissimilar concerns and situations, researchers have majored on servant leadership. This form of leadership denotes one of the ways of management that contributes to the manner in which successful organizations are led in the contemporary times as it centers on service to followers. The research by Mathur and Negi (2014) sought to evaluate how different approaches such as Organizational Citizenship Behavior (OCB) and servant leadership influence the performance of workers in service organizations, for instance, telecommunication and banking institutions, and how the employees operate successfully toward the realization of personal and organizational objectives.

Many research studies have been done based on the parameters of OCB and servant leadership to seek enhanced comprehension of the existing forces and factors, in addition to their function in the success or failure of a company. In their study, Mathur and Negi (2014) addressed the workers operating in banks, telecommunication, and insurance companies in Gwalior region. The assessment of the two variables (OCB and servant leadership) was done in the Indian perspective with the help of instruments such as item to total correlation and Cronbach Alpha. Though OCB has been deemed a good approach for the measurement of the conduct of workers in a company, the further position of behaviors may be expressed by the quality of leadership. The results of the study show that servant leadership practices influence OCB considerably in the service sector. On the same note, the attributes of servant leadership were established to be positively associated with OCB. The research is helpful in the facilitation of OCB through concentrating on servant leadership practices. The personal attributes of leaders have a crucial role in influencing the OCB of followers.

The management of successful companies ought to react suitably to the situation in developed markets across the globe (Mohamadzadeh, Mortazavi, Lagzian, & Rahimnia, 2015). Competition has necessitated managers to innovate and control their operations more fruitfully. The extant paradigms of organizational plan and formation demand alteration to novel approaches that will lead to an effective power sharing and better management through leadership and followership. On this note, companies should seek the comprehension of the role of followership since the new leadership practices call for a high degree of partnership between followers and leaders. Followership acts as an emergent aspect of organizational behavior that centers mostly on followers.

The objective of the study by Mohamadzadeh et al. (2015) is to evaluate the  implicit followership theories that encompass an assessment of their insights and perspectives of followership. The self-perception of followers (perspective concerning themselves) is a major aspect that influences their conduct with two other factors, organizational performance and the anticipation of leaders, also playing a fundamental role. In this regard, anchored in a phenomenological process, semi-structured interviews with workers of big public and non-public companies in Mashhad were investigated through exploratory content assessment. 25 groups of inexplicit theories were identified in five paradigms and 5 anti-prototypes. The study established that followership paradigms contain constructive discernment of work competencies, occupation, initiation pattern, moral qualities, and strength of the leadership. The 5 anti-prototypes consisted of role deviances such as destructive conducts, compliance, incompetency, blue color, and apathy.

Though power has a negative reputation, it is an essential component of the leadership progression (Reiley & Jacobs, 2016). The view of followers regarding their leader’s moral values has the possibility of influencing the manner in which they respond to the pressure of the leaders. If leaders uphold moral conduct, they reinforce interpersonal dealings, which support the approaches that motivate followers to identify and agree to the personal influence of the leaders. Such social-exchange-anchored affiliations might boost the possibility that followers will react to the power applied by leaders with encouraging organizational citizenship behaviors. Followers have a likelihood of admiring principled leaders, identifying with their ideals and practices, and desiring to act like them. The appreciation and recognition might result in the followers being more amenable to the leader’s application of power.

Followers who hold positive perceptions of the vision and ideals of the leaders may find them more proficient and considerate, which back the leaders’ exertion of influence. On the contrary, followers who believe that their leaders are unethical, or morally neutral, might be unreceptive to their application of power hence obstructing constructive aspects of organizational success. In their study, Reiley and Jacobs (2016) interviewed 365 United States Air Force Academy Cadets regarding the manner in which the followers’ insights of the moral values of their leaders moderated the use of power and their level of performance. The results of the study established that the application of referent, reward, and professional influence by the leaders is linked to higher extents of OCBs amid the followers when they (followers) recognize them (leaders) to be fair and vice versa.

Essentially, leadership acts as a vital but usually misconstrued subject. Most of the misapprehension emanates from the inclination of thinking regarding the topic just with respect to the individuals in charge of management in an organization. The study by Van Vugt, Hogan, and Kaiser (2008) evaluates the aspect of leadership from an evolutionary view and offers three concerns that are not grounded in the mainstream theory. The first concern is that followership and leadership are approaches that emerged from the resolution of social coordination challenges in ancestral settings, encompassing issues of group progress, intra-group relations, and intergroup contest. Secondly, the association between followers and leaders is inherently ambivalent attributable to the likelihood of the leaders taking advantage of followers. The third concern is that contemporary organizational structures are at times inconsistent with facets of evolved leadership psychology that may explain the unfriendliness and aggravation of the majority of citizens and workers. The researchers offer numerous implications of the evolutionary assessment of the leadership theory, practice, and study.

Van Vugt, Hogan, and Kaiser (2008) assert that leadership has to be studied alongside followership for effectiveness and a sufficient degree of leadership progression has to take into consideration the task of followers. Nevertheless, the objectives of followers and leaders may at times fail to agree, an aspect that results in an essential ambivalence in the affiliation involving followers and leaders. In some instances, the employees are demanded to defer to individuals holding leadership positions whose conduct is strongly incompatible with attributes that are significant in ancestral management. This could result in dissatisfaction, hostility, and endeavors to transform professions, occupations, and leaders. For people who desire to understand why leadership at times does not succeed in the contemporary settings, they ought to confer with the lessons from the past (Van Vugt et al., 2008).

After obtaining the perspective of earlier studies on proactive qualities and person-environment correspondence, Zhang, Wang, and Shi (2012) evaluated the congruence impact of the followership and leadership attributes and interrelations which, in turn, influences the job satisfaction, performance, and emotional dedication of followers. The results of the multi-level polynomial regressions concerning 165 dyads backed the congruence impact presumption. Moreover, asymmetrical dissimilarity impacts were established where followers had low leader-member exchange and poor job results in instances that their proactive character was not as good as that of the leaders and vice versa. The findings underscore the imperative functions of leaders in the promotion of the proactive attribute of workers. The study by Zhang, Wang, and Shi (2012) discovered a noteworthy aspect for positive outcomes of the proactive qualities of followers – the proactive attribute of leaders. On this note, the study shows that it is crucial to assess the relationship between the proactive character of both leaders and followers for the prediction of the success of an organization, instead of focusing on just one of them.



Followership is a complex issue that is strongly related to the leadership. Although much has been discovered on the topic of leadership yet followership is underestimated. It has been assumed that followers generally orient on what they desire to do and follow their personal goals and not those stated by leaders. Additionally, self-perception is what relates such people to other important issues. However, it is essential that leaders can be role-models for the followers if they act in a proper way.


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Favara Jr, L. F. (2009). Putting followership on the map: Examining followership styles and their relationship with job satisfaction and job performance. Journal of Business & Leadership, 5(2), 68-77.

Martin, R. (2015). A review of the literature of the followership since 2008: The importance of relationships and emotional intelligence. SAGE Open, 5(4), 1-9.

Mathur, G., & Negi, P. (2014). Servant leadership and organizational citizenship behaviour among employees of service sector. American International Journal of Research in Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, 7(2), 191-196

Mohamadzadeh, Z., Mortazavi, S., Lagzian, M., & Rahimnia, F. (2015). Toward an exploration of follower’s implicit followership theories of Mashhad’s large organizations using a qualitative approach. Iranian Journal of Management Studies, 8(3), 397.

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Zhang, Z., Wang, M. O., & Shi, J. (2012). Leader-follower congruence in proactive personality and work outcomes: The mediating role of leader-member exchange. Academy of Management Journal, 55(1), 111-130.