Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Ira Chaleff's follower typology - his response

I wouldn't normally do this, however Ira has responded to the last blog about his work. His response is very useful and adds to the short description I gave of his work so I will quote it at length here as it deserves a more prominent place than in the comments bucket.

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.

Thanks for the response. The link to Followership Exchange is here.

The interesting thing for me is the notion that even in the partner quadrant growth can be in either direction. Interesting because the emphasis appears to be on what is good for the organisation, or to put it another way, on the primacy of the goals of the organisation. This is where conflict for these people can arise.
Sometimes good partners who are intelligent (critical thinkers), courageous and challenging will also be using these skills on the ethics and morals (different things) of the aims of the organisation. As this is often profit before everything else (they can see through 'ethical' dressing up to make their goods or services more attractive / profitable), this then places a partner in a dilemma and thence into an ambiguous place where they have strong loyalty to the individual leaders but a weakening connection with the aims of the organisation. How they will deal with such a dilemma will depend on their 'mode' of thinking, which is what the modes of leadership are...

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