Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Kellerman's Followership Model

The next model comes from Barbara Kellerman (Havard University's JFK School of Government) who I shared the stage with whilst we were both delivering presentations to the Royal Air Force Leadership Conference last year. Barbara who is famous for her work on bad leadership published an article last year (2007) in the December issue of the Harvard Business Review entitled ‘What Every Leader Needs to Know About Followers’.

Again this is a typological model that appears at first sight to be similar to the Kelly model I wrote about last, however there are differences as well as similarities. She has five types of follower, each with increasing levels of engagement.

Level of engagement is the defining factor of this model.

The interesting thing here is that she categorises bad and good followers and more importantly realises (unlike Kelly) that each type of follower can and are likely to change their approach depending on the type of leader they encounter.

Kellerman’s 5 types of follower are:

Isolates – these are people who care little for their leaders and will rarely respond to them regardless of who they are. These people tend to keep a low profile, they want to stay out of the way and just get on with their job without ‘interference from above’.

Bystanders on the other hand are the sorts of people who will offer little support to any leader. They will follow passively and really just observe things from the side lines, rarely getting involved in very much. They differ from isolates in that they tend not to hide from being led or managed nor do they resent it like the isolates can do.

Participants do care about the organisation and do usually want to make an impact. If they agree with the leader they will actively support them, however if they think that the leader is wrong they will actively oppose them, sometimes behind their backs.

Activists have strong beliefs both about the organisation and their leaders. They will actively engage depending on how they see both. If they like what they see they will engage and help create even better conditions. If they don’t they will actively try to get rid of the leader.

Diehards have the highest level of engagement in the organisation and with the leaders and have high passions. If the leader is going (in their opinion) in the right direction they will dedicate all to them and become a disciple. If they think that a leader needs some help to develop they will engage with them, however if they think that the leader is destructive they will set out to destroy the leader.

Kellerman’s model is a little less clear cut than Kelly’s and probably more realistic for that. It does recognise that each type will respond accordingly to how they see their situation in relationship to the organisation and the leader(s).

One problem I do have with this and the Kelly model is it does not appear to suggest that an individual might move from one ‘type’ to another. These are typologies and as such ‘type cast’ the people into types and gives no explanation as to how the followers (and leaders) might develop or change. For example few leaders get it right (or wrong all the time). They change and develop (for better or worse) and so do the followers. I think it is highly plausible that some people will not fully embody these typologies and change, sometimes rapidly in accordance to how they are interpreting things going on around them and the level of legitimacy they feel with the leader and in the organisation. Of course some will embody such types in a more stable way and just be one of these types regardless. (This is an argument against all typologies).

Monday, June 23, 2008

Kelly's Typology of Followership

The first model we will look at is perhaps the most widely used in the leadership / followership literature. The focus of the model are followers' behaviour and thinking characteristics. Kelly who published a book called the 'Power of followership' in 1992 proposed that followers tended (conveniently) to fit into four different behaviour types (this is a typology), each type of which are elements of two dimensions of passivity and critical engagement. In other words followers are more or less active or passive in terms of activity - (doing stuff) and more or less active or passive in terms of (critical and creative) thinking.

Looking at each quadrant in order Kelly describes their behaviour thus:

Alienated: These tend to be capable but cynical individuals. At the top left side of the Alientated quadrant, these people do little but snipe (usually with devastating results as they have the critical faculty to make valid negative comment, but actually produce little unless supervised. Alientated followers tend to be loners with influence who can get others to follow them, especially if people are scared or things are ambiguous.

Passive followers tend to be just that, uncritical and unproductive unless they are shown what to do and are actively managed. These people will tend to follow blindly and just do what they are told to do, and they will do it how they have been shown to do it and no more. They tend not to vary their working practices and don't engage with change well unless they are told exactly what to do. If these people aren't given a brief and managed they will do nothing productive, typically surfing the internet or anything else they want to do. These people often appear to have lots of time on their hands. If you give them a job they will do it and stop, waiting for the next instruction.

Conformists on the other hand tend to be 'yes' people. They will be industrious and will work hard doing what they have been told to do. These are the people who actively follow others orders without question - even if following orders right now is not the best thing to do. These are busy people who get on with 'process'.

Effective followers are those people who actively engage in work and actively engage in thinking things through. They are independent, creative and will question the leadership when they think there is a problem. These tend to be very principled people, however they tend not to work too well for more autocratic leaders who don't want feedback and challenge.

The pragmatic survivor in the centre of the matrix is the sort of person who weighs up what it is that the leader wants at any moment and will reflect whatever they think will increase their own chances of survival / enhancement. So that if they have a more autocratic leader they will flip into conformist mode. If the leader genuinely wants challenge they are capable of doing this but will first ensure that the leader really wants it rather than just saying that they want challenge. They are very flexible individuals, however they tend not to work from the basis of principles.

My comments about the model:
This can be a useful model to examine people's motivations and work ethic. More importantly it helps to open the discussion about work effort and thinking effort, autonomy and depth of thought. Autonomy, creative and critical thinking (different from being critical) are key aspects for the development and profitability any organisation. They are also the aspects that are sadly often lacking in organisations, with the culture, rules and policies of the organisation promoting control, obedience and compliance instead of crtical, creative and autonomous thinking and behaviour.

Unfortunately many leaders come to such models interested in how they can use it to manipulate people to do what they want them to do. So having this model is all very well however calling people 'effective' who challenge when the context is one where the leader can't cope with, or doesn't want challenge suggests that this is an idealised model of followership where the leadership is seen as having one set of (perfect) attributes. Indeed autocratic (mode one) leaders would quite likely see 'effective followers' as a threat and troublesome. Conformist followers however would be seen by such leaders as being the most effective from their perspective.

Given those points, the effective follower typology does usefully blur the distinction between leader and follower (see last blog posting).

The other advantage is that having identified your follower this model enables you to contruct differentiated strategies for each. On the other hand the problem with categorising people is that we can tend to then feed into the categoristaion and only see the evidence that puts a particular person in a particular category; in effect typecasting them.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Models of followership - a problem with the models

In this the first of a small series of blogs about models of followership I want to give an overview of the current models and examine the whole concept of followership from a number of different perspectives.
However I will start by criticising and arguing against the whole concept of followership! It might sound a little odd to start a series by knocking the whole concept, however I do think that it is important to be honest about my own personal arguments about followership.

The biggest criticism I have about talking about followership is that it can codefy the positions of leadership and followership. By this I mean that the concept is often introduced in organisations as a means to control people, to make them good followers, to ensure that they don't challenge or criticise the leaders - 'now run along and be a good and loyal follower', 'do as I say'. By codifying followership as a loyal activity usually means that leaders are fixed in their role as well. Someone is paid to lead and everyone else follows. Leaders lead and followers follow.

However from my own research it is often the case that (especially in crises situations) that leaders rise up in times of difficulty from the ranks. Frequently someone who is a good leader in one set of situations are not necessarily the best leaders when conditions change.
Really great leaders recognise that different times require different modes of leadership and often requires different people to take the lead. Generative or mode four leaders are great when fast change is required. However if the situation needs some stability more technical or co-operative (mode one and two) leaders tend to excel. It is rare that one person is good in all situations. There are a few multi-modal leaders around however most aren't and tend to excel in one or two types of situation. (Which is why we focus on developing leaders that can work across situations and when necessary know when to step aside). The interesting thing is that mode four leaders who aren't multi-modal themselves will engage other people to take the lead when necessary. Mode one leaders particularly tend not to notice that conditions have changed and that their thinking is out of date. Other leaders (Modes 1-3) will hardly ever hand leadership over to anyone else, for a variety of reasons.

So the criticism I have of many of the models of followership (and indeed many leadership models) is that they tend to assume that leaders should be leaders regardless of the circumstances. My view is that in certain situations most leaders would serve their organisations better by recognising their own situations of strength and moving aside when someone else would be better in a particular set of circumstances. Ego often gets in the way, which is why only mode four leaders tend to do this. I am arguing her for a model of shifting followership, not static like most of the models I will review here assume.

In a resilient organisation leadership will shift, followers will challenge and help to build stronger leadership. Some followers will lead and influence at times. The lines between leadership and followership should be flexible and fluid depending on what is best for the current situation. At other times the delineation will be clearer and better defined.
An example from my own past, as a senior police officer during briefings and debriefing, planning and normal day to day work I needed challenge and at times leading by others. However on certain operations, once the plan was agreed and was in action, operationally people did what they were told. They could criticise later. However even this rule was fluid if someone (a follower) noticed something (going wrong or new information) that wasn't part of the plan. Then they were expected to tell me and help with a solution. We discussed this often. People were part of the leadership / followership thinking. They and I discussed and knew when to flick into following, when to partner and when they (or I) needed to take the lead.
These are issues to be considered as we discuss models of followership - in reality the seperation between leader and follower is not always as well defined as many assume it to be, and in my opinion a resilient organisation would not want such a hard delineation and would prefer a more complex relationship to exist and be recognised.

Followership - what makes people follow?

Firstly sorry about the break in posts. One of my coachees in the city yesterday asked if I'd stopped the blog. No is the answer. The credit crunch has created a very busy time for me, especially in the area of emotional resilience and helping people perform better regardless of fear, nerves and anxieties. So followership....

Why do people follow someone? There is an old African proverb that says:

If you go for a walk in the bush and after a short time you look around and the people of your village are also going for a walk along the same path then you are a leader. If you go for a walk in the bush and after a short time you look around and there is no one behind you then you are just going for a walk.
What is it that makes people want to follow someone?

There are roughly for reasons why people follow another person:
  1. Fear - They fear the consequences of not following. This is usually fear of retribution. Losing their job for example. Fear can be effective usually only in the short term. The moment the followers can either escape or bring the leader down they often will. Fear of the leader or leader's power often breeds weak loyalty and low levels of commitment.
  2. Hope - They hope that this person will solve their problem or problems. This usually occurs where the group are in some form of difficulty, facing risk or ambiguity and can't see any other option. Hope usually springs from fear however in this case they don't fear the leader or the leader's power, rather they fear the problem and hope that the leader will solve the problem they can't.
  3. Faith - This usually occurs because the followers trust the leader. They have faith in the leader and the leader's abilities to deliver. The difference between hope and faith is that in the former they don't want the situation as it is now and don't know how to solve it and just hope the leader does. With faith they have trust in the leader even if they can't quite see where they are going, which is why it is often called blind faith.
  4. Positive emotional and cognitive coherence (Hearts and minds)- When people agree with the leaders representation of the current situation and are captivated by a clear vision of the future (direction) the leader creates and they can know what they need to do, then they tend not only to follow willingly
    but to collude with the leader in creating a new order. This reason for following operates at both a positive cognitive and a positive emotional level. This 'makes sense', is often an exciting logic and it 'feels good', it 'feels' like we can make a difference.
When there is both positive emotional and cognitive (intellectual) coherence everything fits together and creates a strong motivation. In situations like this it is almost immaterial who the leader is. If they have created the coherence in people, then those people will follow their thoughts and more importantly their feelings.