Monday, July 21, 2008

Ira Chaleff's follower typology

The next followership model, another typology, comes from Ira Chaleff who I believe is part of the Followership Exchange a rather useful wiki devoted to followership. Chaleff published 'The Couagous Follower; Standing up and for our leaders.' initially in 1995 and earlier this year (2008) published (with Ronald E. Riggio, and Jean Lipman-Blumen) 'The Art of Followership: How Great Followers Create Great Leaders and Organizations'.
Chaleff's original work on followership proposed an interesting typology which emphasises the relationship between leaders and followers. Importantly this work recognises the positive role of follower challenge to leadership thinking and as the title of the second book suggests the role followers can play in developing and maturing leaders. Chaleff (et al) blur the lines between follower and leader, seeing rather the dance between the two in influencing and developing each other. The focus here is on the skills of the follower rather than their personality. Skills can be developed and updated and appear less set. There is a downside to skills based arguments however. They often led to indoctrinational types of instrumental training programmes to ensure compliance, which when you look at the typology will work with only a few types of follower. This is not a fault of the model, rather of the interpretation and abstraction of the model by people who misunderstand how such models can be used.
Blind obedience in this model is not seen as a positive attribute, hence the emphasis on bravery (both of the leader and the follower) to tackle the things that need to tackled.

Chaleff's typology:

Implementers. These are the majority of most organisations workers. They do most of the work and busy themselves doing and completing tasks. However they tend not to question the leaders, preferring instead to 'just get on with the job'

Partners. These people want (and often need) to be seen as equal to the leader, especially in terms of their skills and thinking. If this state is allowed to exist in the relationship the partner-follower will respect the leaders position and support the leader strongly. They will also provide the intellectual challenge needed by the leader. With the right leader a strong and positive partnership will develop. If however the leader won't allow these people to partner them (often out of fear that their position/status will be diminished) then they can create powerful enemies.

Individualists. Individualists are independent and will think for themselves. This does not mean that they are selfish, they just don't tend to follow 'group think'. They also like to do as they see fit and do not make great followers in the traditional sense. the wise leader however will use the attributes of the individualist wisely. These people, as long as you keep contact with them, will often provide new ideas and ways of thinking that can be used.

Recourses. These people will do what they have been asked to do and no more. They tend to lack the requisite intellect, imagination and courage needed to do more (I do find the label 'Resources' somewhat depreciating, however I do understand the sentiment behind it!).

As can be seen the focus here is more of a partnership and therefore the relationship between leader and follower. The blurring of the lines between leader and follower in the partner scenario is useful. However as noted before it does depend on the maturity of the leader for it to work. What I do like about this work is the call for courage and therefore emotional maturity / resilience.

As with most typologies (which models of followership tend to be) there is the question as to the nature of the types. Are the types, personality based, fixed and you just need to accept them?
Are they skill based and all you need to do is increase the skills by training, which is an often alluring proposition?
Are they intelligence or even maturity based?
Or a mix maybe? Issues rarely tackled by the models.
Other questions include:
Can people move between the types? Most models appear not to discuss this and accept the position people play. The way around this is often seen as training people to be a particular (more useful) type.
Why are they all 2x2 models? Can the reality (whatever that is) of followership (whatever that is!) really just fall neatly into a world of two dimensions?
Notwithstanding these questions, Chaleff's work requires close scrutiny as the emphasis on relationships and courage is a very profitable (useful and practical) line of thinking which many leaders and employees would do well to think about.


Anonymous said...

This is a really good and useful series thank you. It has made me think about the relationship we have with our leaders and what my relationship should be with those under me.

ira chaleff said...

Hi. This is Ira Chaleff responding to your description of my work on Followership.

First, thank you for a fair description and for alerting readers to the existence of our Followership Exchange WIKI that is becoming a posting ground for research and current activities on the topic of followership.

I think it would be useful for your readers to know that the two dimensions that create my "followership styles" typology are the degree of support given to the leader and the willingness to question or challenge (admittedly a bit of a strong word) a leader's actions that are counterproductive.

To answer your question "Are the styles fixed?" the answer is unequivocally "no." In workshops I have participants complete a self assessment questionnaire that places them in one of the four styles, or occasionally on the cusp between two styles. We then examine the growth direction for each style. Generally speaking, for those in the Resource or Individualist style the growth direction is giving the leader more support. For those in the Implementer style it is pushing beyong their comfort zone to vocalize questions or discomfort they are harboring about a leader's plans or actions. For those in the Partner quadrant, growth may be in either direction, continually working to serve the organization and leader better while being more willing to be an important source of candor for the leader. In my model, Follower is a role, not a personality type, and people can develop in a role.

My own view on these typologies is that their primary value is to begin giving people some language to think about the follower role, how they do it, and how they might do it differently. They typically haven't thought much about it, as there was an absence of language with which to do so.

To some degree you can view my typology as dynamically linked to Hersey/Blanchard's Situational Leadership typology. As the follower's "task maturity" increases there ideally would be a movement from Resource to Implementer to Partner. However, several factors can keep this from happening including internalized rule sets regarding authority relationships, organization culture, socio-economic stressors, etc. The aim of "Courageous Followership" is to lower the self-imposed barriers to acting as a fully responsible Partner for leaders, whether or not the leader invites this. Of course, doing this requires both courage and skill. The Courageous Follower book is a resource for an individual to develop in both dimensions. By contrast, The Art of Followership is a compendium of academic research into followership, and practitioner experiences with implementing followership development programs, in a variety of organizations.

The most fundamental point of Courageous Followership is that those who are not in the Leader role, can and should help the leader use his or her power well to achieve the organization's mission, and keep the leader from squandering or abusing power through courageous and skilfull support, feedback and, when necessary, moral stands.

Thank you again for this very valuable series which we will point Followership Exchange WIKI visitors to as well.