14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
This anthology brings together the essays of 31 contributors who participated in the Kravis-De Roulet Leadership Conference on February 24-25, 2006. The material has been co-edited by Ronald E. Riggio, Ira Chaleff, and Jean Lipman-Blumen; Chaleff and Lipman-Blumen are also among the contributors. To what does the title of this book refer? As with so many other significant human activities, there is both an art and a science to effective followership. Immediately opinions vary as to what is an intangible (e.g. mutual trust) and what is a tangible (e.g. shared tasks) in the relationship between a leader and a follower. I suggest that you ignore the title, not worry about differentiating tangibles and intangibles, and focus on what the book offers that is of specific interest to you and of greatest value to what you hope to accomplish.
The material is carefully organized as follows: A brief Foreword by James MacGregor Burns and then an Introduction by Warren Bennis. (More about Bennis' remarks in a moment), followed by 23 "author chapters" that are divided within four Parts: "Defining and Redefining Followership" (Chapters 1-5), "Effective Followerhip" (Chapters 6-12), "The Pitfalls and Challenges" (Chapters 13-17), and "Followers and Leaders: Research and Practice, and the Future" (Chapters 18-23).
Many prominent business thinkers "mail in" material when asked to provide an introduction. Not so with Warren Bennis, as the following composite of brief excerpts clearly indicate: "It is no surprise that books on leadership, promising to reveal the secrets of countless football coaches and historical figures as disparate as Moses and Attila the Hun, outnumber those on followership several thousand to one. After all, leadership is the prize that ambitious men and women have struggled and even died for at least since Alexander the Great...When followers check the power of their leaders, they clearly function as leaders themselves, albeit less well paid ones...If I had to reduce the responsibilities of a good follower to a single rule, it would be to speak truth to power. [Note: "Speaking to Power" is the title of James O'Toole's contribution to Transparency: How Leaders Create a Culture of Candor co-authored by Warren Bennis, Daniel Goleman, and O'Toole with Patricia Ward Biederman.] We know that toxic followers can put even good leaders on a disastrous path - Shakespeare's Iago comes immediately to mind. But heroic followers can also save leaders from their worst follies, especially leaders so isolated that the only voice they hear is their own...In many ways, great followership is harder than leadership. It has more dangers and fewer rewards, and it must routinely be exercised with much more subtlety...I will go out on a limb and predict that a decade from now, the terms leader and follower will seem as dated as bell bottoms and Nehru jackets...the days are gone when a leader's rise to power is linear and relatively orderly. Today, power is being democratized by new media that spread ideas virally and can topple the established order without violence or manifesto...Not traditional leaders, but people whose fingers are on the send key rule this brave new world." Bennis thus sets the proverbial table for the wealth of information and opinions that others provide. Here are a few of several that caught my eye.
In "Rethinking Followership," Robert E. Kelley identifies and then discusses five basic styles of followership: The Sheep, The Yes-People, The Alienated, The Pragmatists, and The Star Followers. Others may quarrel with such descriptives but Kelley's key points when examining the field of followership in terms of seven topics (i.e. world events, culture, leader [ship], follower qualities, role of the follower, language of followership, and "courageous conscience") seem eminently sound to me.
Ernest L. Stech explains what he has identified a "new leadership-followership paradigm."
Joseph Rost asserts that followership is "an outmoded concept and explains why.
In an essay that I found especially thought-provoking and informative, Linda Hopper shares her thoughts about "courageous followers, servant-leaders, and organizational transformations." On Page 118, she identifies five common barriers to engaging "disaffected, disgruntled, distrustful employees who appear reticent to make a commitment to and be accountable for work or decisions." Courageous followership can help to lower (if not eliminate) these barriers. How? Hopper offers four suggestions: Seek ways to work for conjoint efforts toward common goals, see others as allies rather than enemies or even as opponents, see their own success as the goals of the organization become a reality, and recognize that their participation in successful change initiatives substantiates the belief that their efforts as well as collaborative efforts with others really can make a difference.
Another essay I thoroughly enjoyed reading is "Following Toxic Leaders: In Search of Posthumous Praise" in which Jean Lipman-Blumen shares several of the insights she explores in munch greater depth in her brilliant book, The Allure of Toxic Leaders: Why We Follow Destructive Bosses and Corrupt Politicians - and How We Can Survive Them. Obviously, there are toxic followers as well as toxic leaders in most organizations, with the major difference being that toxic leaders tend to do much more extensive damage. In this essay, she has much of value to say about how to differentiate "the exhilaration that comes from noble, life-affirming causes" that constructive leaders experience and the "excitement that flows from grand illusions that toxic leaders ask us to engage in or merely endorse." (See Pages 192-193). She concludes with an admirable affirmation: "One answer to the human condition calls for freeing ourselves from anxious subservience to, as distinct from knowledgeable support of, [begin italics] all [end italics] leaders, not just the toxic ones. This coupled with the necessity to take action despite our fears, may be the best hope we have in the long run."
About 75-80% of the material was of interest and value to me. However, I realize that that that can also be said of almost any other anthology of this scope and length. Moreover, what I found boring may be of great interest and value to others. So, I took that consideration into full account as well as my opinion of most of the material when determining my rating of this book. Those who are thinking about reading this book need to check out the table of contents as well as all of the reviews provided by Amazon.
I am grateful to Linda Hopper for providing the title that I selected for my review. It appears at the conclusion of her essay. "Edith Wharton wrote, `There are two ways of spreading light - to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.' By being worthy servant-leaders and courageous followers, we bring light into our organization." If Warren Bennis is right, and I am convinced he is, the day rapidly approaches when the terms "leader" and "follower" will be interchangeable because the most productive and most highly principled people will be both "candles" and "mirrors" when spreading the light that guides others.
To those who share my high regard for this book, I highly recommend the aforementioned Transparency as well as Barbara Kellerman's Followership: How Followers Are Creating Change and Changing Leaders, Ira Chaleff's The Courageous Follower: Standing Up to and for Our Leaders, Tom Atchison's Followership: A Practical Guide to Aligning Leaders and Followers, Art Kleiner's The Age of Heretics: A History of the Radical Thinkers Who reinvented Corporate Management, and Five Star Leadership: The Art and Strategy of Creating Leaders at Every Level co-authored by Patrick L. Townsend and Joan E. Gebhar.