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The Courageous Follower: Standing Up to and for Our Leaders 3rd Edition

4.3 out of 5 stars 32 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1605092737
ISBN-10: 1605092738
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  • The Courageous Follower: Standing Up to and for Our Leaders
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  • Followership: How Followers Are Creating Change and Changing Leaders (Center for Public Leadership)
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Business consultant Chaleff points out that most of us at different times are both leaders and followers. Many books, he notes, have explored and analyzed the former role but almost none the latter. Following is often stigmatized, he argues, as docility, weakness or failure to excel. His handbook shows that a courageous follower can be an enormous asset to a leader, and he pinpoints five dimensions in which that courage can be demonstrated: assuming responsibility, serving, challenging, participating in transformation and, given the worst-case scenario, leaving. The book should be of value for those working in businesses where "committeemanship," or team playing, is now the rule in executive ranks.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Scientific American

We are all leaders or followers-or both. The Courageous Follower is a comprehensive guide that gives us the tools to manage the virtues, values, and responsibilities of those roles. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Berrett-Koehler Publishers; 3 edition (November 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1605092738
  • ISBN-13: 978-1605092737
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #210,319 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Serge J. Van Steenkiste on September 8, 2004
Format: Paperback
In The Courageous Follower, Chaleff focuses on the relationship existing between the formal leadership of an organization and the followers, all the people who ultimately report to the leadership team directly or indirectly. Chaleff also examines the interaction among followers within the leadership team in their relationship with the ultimate leader of the organization (pg. 14, 32).

Like Peter Drucker in The Essential Drucker, Ira Chaleff acknowledges right away that leadership may be informal and distributed throughout an organization (pg. 14). Knowledge workers, who are considered partners rather than employees, can only be helped. The close supervision of knowledge workers is often illusory because of their unique expertise.

Chaleff is conscious of the potential negative baggage associated with the word follower by making clear that a follower is not the same as a subordinate (pg. 15). Chaleff recognizes that being a courageous follower can be a risky proposition. Contingency plans are in any circumstances a necessity, whether the follower is courageous or not, in a fast-changing global economy (pg. 20-21, 163-165). However, a respectful individual who is not afraid to speak and act on the truth, despite the inequities in the relationship between employee and employer, is a force to be reckoned with (pg. 20, 25).

Not everybody is called upon to become and remain a courageous follower. Chaleff divides followers into four profiles that he calls respectively, implementer, resource, individualist and partner. Only the partner, who sooner rather than later dares to challenge on a regular basis the orthodoxy of the leadership team in a constructive, non-confrontational mode, can be counted on as a courageous follower (pg. 40-43, 51, 66, 103-104, 147-148).
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Congratulations to Ira Chaleff for taking on a topic that virtually nobody else in popular management and leadership literature is willing to address. The very notion that leadership is any more important than followership is preposterous, but you wouldn't know that by examining where the publishing industry places all of its management focus. Much is made of the leader as the all-important, most indispensable component of a successful enterprise. But as Mr. Chaleff makes abundantly clear, leaders need followers - and good ones - as much as followers need leaders. They are both part of the same circle of communication and effort, orbiting around what is truly all-important and indispensable: the goals of the organization. How ironic, indeed, that business and management literature make so much of the leader when virtually everyone, even high-level managers, are also followers. Really, how many bosses don't have a boss of their own?

Interestingly, though it would not appear to be the author's principal goal, this book underlines the importance of managing up. More importantly, it shows this through the context of achieving an organization's goals - not through the context of simply getting ahead. The author's emphasis is on making the organization, and in the process the leader, more effective. Though mainstream management literature pays little attention to them, followers are the ones who implement a leader's plan. And the plan is only successful to the extent that followers are willing to provide invaluable feedback to their leaders.

Mr. Chaleff's writing style is abundantly academic, which would seem to make his book a serious textbook candidate on the subject of followership as an integral part of leadership.
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It's all about choosing... to do the right thing even if it is not popular... being willing to take a stand- helping your senior leaders navigate through perilous situations where your vantage point affords better visibility. It is the antithesis of "carefully saying what you think the boss wants to hear" (the playing it safe approach.) Risky? Yes. But giving a voice to your conscience and following your moral compass is always a better long term choice.
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Read this book in grad school and became a huge fan. I use it now as the basis of a class period that I teach on leadership/followership in a freshman seminar course. Outside of this book, I have never seen any other book on following. It has changed the way that I view leadership.
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The Best Practical Guide to Following I have ever read. I would have given it a five star, but it is redundant in sections and could be streamlined by aggressive editing to be 25% shorter without a loss of material.
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While Kelley's works "In Praise of Followers" (in HBR) and "The Power of Followership" represent the genesis of modern Followership, I would say that Chaleff's book is probably the most influential work on Followership out there today.
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As I read his five dimensions, I'm thinking, "Yeah, I've done this and it's been bloody--mostly for me." The five dimensions are:

Courage to assume responsibility
Courage to serve
Courage to challenge
Courage to participate in transformation
Courage to take moral action (similar to challenge)
In later editions, Chaleff added the courage to speak to the hierarchy and the courage to listen to followers.

Now, I have to also admit that when my staff has challenged me and suggested other moral actions than I've considered, it's been tough but necessary. Nobody needs 'yes men' on the staff. As some wags have said, "If we both agree, one of us is unnecessary." I only learn sometimes by debate, testing the parameters and the space of the issue. Sometimes it's helpful to take positions to an extreme as a way of testing the principles.

I've felt good about the people for whom I've worked that have also appreciated give-and-take in discussions. My political bruising has come from people who didn't want to have a discussion about any decisions or issues. They wanted to sell me on their decision without any input from anyone. They're definitely on the tell-sell end of the tell-sell-consult-join decision spectrum.

I hope Chaleff takes these kinds of bosses in perspective. And his advice for dealing with a toxic leader seems short-sighted.

Toxic leaders are said to charm, manipulate and undermine their followers intentionally leaving them worse off than when they entered the scene. Perhaps you've worked for one...or two. You probably struggled with the politics of the situation, felt like you were walking on egg shells just waiting for one to break and a big mess would become yours, and you would get the blame.
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