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).