Twice during the semester, we are required to post a blog on our class blog for Leadership Theory. This week, it was time for one of mine. Just thought I’d share it here too!
This is officially your opportunity to admit to the world how much you love ABC’s new show “Glee.” No? Just me? Well, you’re missing out. And as I’ve watched the characters develop over the first few episodes, styles of followership have become evident. Each eccentric character of the high school glee club fits right into one of Robert Kelley’s followership patterns: Tina, a yes person; Rachel, an effective follower; Finn, an effective follower; Kurt, an effective follower; Artie, a sheep; and Mercedes, a very active survivor. I could write a ton on each person’s traits that make them a certain type of follower and/or leader, but instead I would like to focus on the choice of followership.
Still early in the season, Rachel has already decided the leadership (Mr. Schuester) wasn’t good enough, got him to leave the group, tried to bring in someone else who failed, and then she happily resigned back into her followership role, allowing Mr. Schuester to take back over the club. She tried something, it failed, and then she made the choice to follow Mr. Schuester’s lead, while still acting in many ways as a leader for the other students in the group.
Rachel is potentially a very effective follower, but as Kelley writes, “some potentially effective followers derive motivation from ambition. By proving themselves in the follower’s role, they hope to win the confidence of peers and superiors and move up the corporate ladder. These people do not see followership as attractive in itself.” This accurately describes Rachel’s constant fluctuation between being an effective follower, and her tendency to quit when she can’t be in charge. There are many times throughout the show that she chooses to follow effectively. Followership is a choice. Each student in the Glee Club has chosen to be a part of something larger than them, and to take the lead of others.
But if we assume that followership is a choice, which I believe it is, what are the circumstances that persuade us to choose what type of follower we will be? Must you try something, like Rachel did, and fail before you are willing to be a follower? Or is there a moment when you weigh the pros and cons of being a follower and you decide what type you’ll be? And finally, is it possible for us to create a general definition for what these moments might look like, or is it unique for every individual in every circumstance?