He Who Leads Also Follows: Three Leadership
Abundant research on leadership suggested various definitions and descriptions of this phenomenon. Peter G. Northouse analyzed the dynamic of changing views on leadership throughout the 20th century, starting with the prevailing concepts of control, domination, and centralization of power in research perspective of the 1900s up to emerging themes of noncoercion and leader-as-excellence movements in 1980s. Only at the beginning of the 21st century, research has come to regard leadership as the process occurring between a leader and a follower, and whose result is important for both parties and their common goal. Additionally, Northouse states that “some researchers conceptualize leadership as a trait or as a behavior, whereas others view leadership from an information-processing perspective or relational standpoint.” In his book, the author treats leadership as a complex process having multiple dimensions whereby an individual influences a group of people to achieve a common goal. Defining leadership as a process implies that, first, it can be learned, and second, it means that it is not only a leader who affects but also is affected by followers. Overall, this definition obviously turns out to be the most productive for the exploration of various issues associated not only with leaders but also with followers as well as for conceptualizing most effective leadership in all spheres of human activity. Finally, it becomes vital to create and explore not only leadership but also followership theories.
If one regards these issues in the religious domain, leadership for a pastor or other religious leaders is associated with the “framework for living”, as Michael J. Shanlian puts it . If one has to lead, he has to realize own values and philosophy, in the first turn, and be ready to discover the truth of life together with one’s followers, all way through living. At the same time, a true leader has to teach and be taught by followers, in the common search of the God’s Kingdom.
What is also important is the necessity to find one’s leadership style, authentic, appropriate for one’s personality, set of beliefs, views on life and people, and one’s system of values. Except for being effective, such leadership style has to be first of all harmonious with one’s inner being and one’s convictions. This paper strives to explore three leadership and two followership theories, compare and contrast them, and finally, draw reasonable and effective conclusions for personal evolvement. Indeed, whichever style is described, it should be born in mind that every leader will surely bring something new, authentic, and innate only in his person, into the frame of leadership, either transformational, or transactional, or any other.
Different researches have vigorously examined transformational leadership in different fields, including business, medicine, teaching, and religion as well. It has grown in volume, especially over the last thirty years. While most of the research focuses on a person of a transformational leader as a major agent of change, in the last twenty years, the focus has been redirected also on followers’ perspective and perception of a transformational leader, specifically, in comparison to transactional one (which will be described later in the paper). For instance, Shanlian views a transformational leader in the church from the followers’ perspective. Pastor Mark made Heights Church in Beech Island, South Carolina one of the fastest growing churches owing to his ability to motivate and equip the congregation.
According to Shanlian (2013), the proliferation of transformational leaders in the church has recently taken place, to which technology and the development of societies made a considerable contribution. As a result, the traditional church gave way to a more contemporary style, in which the concept of transformational leadership borrowed from the field of business and organizational management came to be helpful. As Shanlian (2013) showed, a transformational leader in a church forces it to “break out” ; he is the called, contributing, outwardly focused, passionate, bold, and legacy leader . It should be noted that these leaders are prone to “move beyond the comfort of the church’s walls” ; they enthusiastically proclaim a church’s mission while empowering others to follow. Besides, transformational leaders are bold and persistent in any tough times and situations on the way to a church’s mission. Finally, these break-out leaders do not strive for own recognition but empower others for the work of the ministry taking responsibility if necessary and making decisions beneficial for the future.
A significant concept belying the notion of transformational leadership is a person’s capacity for resilience in hardships and efficient performance in adversity. As Joshua D. Margolis and Paul G. Stoltz claim, when adversity strikes, a true resilient leader can control disappointment, dispiritedness, or other common emotional traps that sap energy and prevent from active thinking and responding constructively. Moreover, such leaders make use of the tough situation to evolve to higher levels of personal and organizational development whereas also transform their fellows; they actualize new qualities and opportunities, which emanate from a crisis. This happens due to the fact that transformational leaders “shift quickly from endlessly dissecting traumatic events to looking forward, determining the best course of action given new realities” . On a related note, as Shanlian states, the pastors who have successfully revived faltering ministries over the past twenty years have been called transformational. Their transformational leadership revitalized and transformed declining churches, turned them into growing ones.
Such enormous success of the leaders under focus is grounded in the very essence of transformational leadership and its interaction with the notion of followership. Particularly, transformational leaders achieve positive outcomes by inspiring and motivating their followers, by empowering them to reach the shared vision. As a result, along with productive organizational outcomes, followers receive empowerment, job satisfaction, commitment, trust, self-efficacy beliefs, and motivation from a transformational leader. Another attractive feature of transformational style is its nurturing and caring attitude towards subordinates, fostering their self-actualization and personal development. There are four dimensions of transformational leadership, such as charisma or idealized influence, inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation, and individualized consideration. Thus, a transformational leader can be considered as a charismatic leader who utilizes his power of influence for constructive purposes of followers’ well-being in contrast to such negative charismatic leaders as Jim Jones in Peoples Temple or Saddam Hussein. As Givens suggests, a transformational charismatic leader demonstrates a passionate inspiration, vision, and energy in the process of influencing and persuading subordinates to accomplish more than they have planned in the pursuit of a shared purpose. Overall, the most valuable concept within this theory is associated with the value system congruence between a leader and followers who interact and motivate each other. There is the reciprocal influence whose ultimate purpose is the evolvement of spirituality and other human qualities of both parties.
While transformational leaders are more concentrated on those who they lead, transactional style is more concerned with the achievement of results and task fulfillment. In 1978, James M. Burns worked out a theory explaining the differences between the two, which was later developed by Bernard M. Bass in 1980s. The theorists asserted that transactional leaders emphasize work standards, have task-oriented aims, and perform in precise correspondence with the organizational rules and regulations. To understand the essence of it, it should be noted that transactional leadership includes three dimensions, including contingent reward, management by exception – active, and management by exception – passive. A transactional leader can use either rewards or punishments in dealing with followers. He sets clear expectations, establishes transactions and exchanges with followers, and takes corrective actions on the basis of the results of leader–follower transactions .
It is obvious that there is a great difference in these two approaches to leadership, and it is rooted in attitudes, beliefs, and values inherent to both, in different philosophical and ethical systems at their core. Transactional leadership is more tolerant to pluralism of values and beliefs, justification of motives and actions prioritized by self-interest and individual profit. Here, extrinsic motivation is the only target and tool of influencing followers. The most powerful, intrinsic motivation and the process of interiorization of the group’s or organization’s values are not taken into account. It prevents from achieving common outstanding outcomes, both professional and personal, an organization’s growth and thriving, and personal performance on the highest level. Moreover, a worldview of self-interest, characteristic of transactional leadership, in fact, robs a self of its benefits. A transformational worldview proposes a more harmonious and multifaceted understanding of human nature, and achieves benefits from encouraging an individuals’ fundamental nature and its moral foundations. It reflects and grounds on the most crucial Christian beliefs and concepts of humanistic psychological theories (by Carl Rogers, Abraham Maslow), as well as existential philosophical views (Jean Paul Sartr, Viktor E. Frankl, S?ren Kierkegaard). Transformational leadership is consistent with the social norms and cultural beliefs, which naturally emanate from the aforementioned philosophical and ethical systems. Only in a trusting community, where the highest needs of its members have the opportunity to be satisfied, highly effective interactional relationships based on equality are possible between leaders and followers.
One more feature of transformational leadership that makes it closer to Christian values is that it bases on a free good will of people, their goals, and interests, and thus are not imposed, but “freely embraced” . It seems natural that motivation based on the inner personal choice and free decision is much stronger directing power, inspiring and filling with energy, while negative emotions resulting from coercion and imposing sap a person’s energy and diverge from the goal achievement. Just like the “servant king” S?ren Kierkegaard’s parable did not want to force a girl to love him and be unhappy, Cristian God admits our right for freedom and conscious choice . On a similar note, only if a leader manages to inspire his followers voluntarily accept common goals and sincerely wish for common success, there will be productive and innovative outcomes. Thus, following a transformational leadership worldview excludes treating followers as “means to self-satisfying ends”, but encourages perceiving every individual “as ends in themselves” , which is also in agreement with Immanuel Kant’s principal concept of his ethical categorical imperative asserting the necessity of treating a person not a means to achieve a goal, but as an end in itself.
Among researchers, the concept of transformational leadership is closely associated with the notion of ethical leadership. Bernard M. Bass and Peter J. Steidlmeier emphasize the priority of moral foundations for transformational leadership. They claim that ethical foundations of leaders’ character and authenticity are the major factors that differentiate between Mother Teresa and Saddam Hussein or Hitler . Most of the authors discussing leadership associate authentic transformational leadership with genuine moral foundations and unambiguous faith in truly human eternal values.
Brown and Mitchell state that employees conform to the ethical values of their leaders. Ethical leaders present a positive role model for their subordinates and thus, positively influence their productive work behavior. They are perceived by employees as approachable and ready to deal with individuals’ problems and concerns. Besides, moral leaders have a reputation for being fair and principled and as a result, become worthy of emulation by others . According to Albert Bandura and his social cognitive theory, human beings are prone to learn standards of appropriate behavior through observing positive and respectful role-models. Ethical leaders treat other fairly, honestly, and considerately, and interact with supporters in a caring, nurturing style. In particular, Brown and Mitchell describe ethical leaders along the related dimensions of moral persons and moral managers. It is vital that moral persons should be equally moral in both their personal and professional lives. Otherwise, their positive impact on followers will be impossible, and they will not be able to gain people’s respect. Moral managers set and communicate ethical standards in the workplace. They are role-models of ethical conduct for their admirers. Overall, in order to be seen as ethical leaders by the people surrounding them, they should combine being strong moral persons and moral managers. It should be noted that leaders must avoid becoming hypocritical in views of their followers, when they only talk about the importance of ethics, but their deeds and behavior reveals dishonesty and lack of unambiguous principles .
It is clear that a leader must motivate own behavior by morality and unambiguous ethical beliefs so that this leader does not become another Jim Jones or Hitler. Moreover, it is unacceptable to ground one’s performance on the popular in today’s world concept of morality being a subjective matter defined according to one’s taste and opinion. The notion of relative truth and morality allows the existence of such sadistic leaders. As Geisler and Turek put it, if there are no absolute moral foundations and Natural or Moral Law written in our hearts, then the actions of Hitler versus Mother Teresa, as well as racism and murder are merely “a matter of opinion” . That is why, it is difficult to agree with Bass and Steidlmeier who argue that the right or wrong ethical behavior of leaders depends on socio-historical peculiarities, and justice can be stated only taking into account a specific epoch or social context . The views of Geisler and Turek are more just whereas they state that there can be only one truly moral and justified worldview for everyone, and the roots of it are in the essence of the human spiritual nature. The authors claim and give evidence-based proofs that this truly right and the only justifiable worldview is Christianity. There are certain religious or other sets of beliefs that justify genocide or killing all people belonging to another religion. If a leader chooses such worldview and influences many followers with his charisma, it could bring fatal consequences for the whole society and humanity.
Leadership research has recently shifted its interest from analyzing leaders’ personalities and individual differences to deliberate consideration of their followers, work settings, or cultural contexts. Leadership is demonstrated and depicted in various models as dyadic, shared, relational, strategic, global, and a complex social dynamic. Northouse adds that many theorists, nowadays, take an information-processing perspective on leadership and regard it from relational standpoint. The author treats leadership as a complex process having multiple dimensions. He asserts that leaders direct their energies toward persons who are trying to achieve something together; they have a mutual purpose. In order to achieve this common goal, leaders need to interact and work together with cohorts because forced or unethical treatment will disable people and prevent them from striving to a shared vision. The theorist adds that leaders and followers need each other; they are both involved in the common process, and they are both interested in its outcome. Specifically, leaders initiate and maintain relationship as whereas borrow responsibility for the whole process and followers’ needs and concerns.
In his 1988 Harvard Business Review article, “In Praise of Followers,” Robert E. Kelly criticized the field of leadership for neglecting followers. He claimed that followership should be placed in the center of the map, not in the periphery. Nevertheless, most theorists continued focusing on leaders and viewed followers rather as objects of leadership actions. Only a few researchers recognized followers as “active, thinking, and perceiving individuals”. Only at the beginning of the 21st century, more follower-centric models started emerging. Researchers stopped regarding only leaders issues and turned to viewing leader-follower relationships as a single leadership process with a common mutual goal. New concepts such as shared leadership, self-management/self-leadership, leader-member-exchange, and substitutes, or neutralizers of leadership emerged. They claimed that central factors in leadership analysis should be subordinates’ motivation, affect, and development and the ways how a leader can influence them. Nowadays, no single researcher examines the issue of leadership without discussing the role of followership in it.
To continue, Kelley views followers through two dimensions (independent /critical thought and passive/active) and divides them into five basic styles: sheep, yes-people, alienated, pragmatics, and star followers. More specifically, the first dimension is concerned with such questions: “Do they think for themselves? Are they independent critical thinkers? Or do they look to the leader to do the thinking for them?”. The second dimension regards the following: “Are they actively engaged in creating positive energy for the organization? Or is there negative energy or passive involvement?”. So, Kelley claims that the representatives of the first style, “sheep”, are passive and let leaders think for them as well as motivate them. “Yes-people” are positive and supportive, but they only do whatever leader tells them to do; they turn to a leader for the thinking, the direction, and the vision. “Alienated followers” are smart and have energy; however, this energy is directed not toward a new productive solution but skepticism of a leader’s current plan of action. “Pragmatics” do not hurry to survive change but always wait to see “which way the wind blows” . The most productive followership style seems to be “star followers”. They are active, with positive energy, have the capacity for reasonable evaluations and support of sound propositions. If they disagree, they do not merely criticize but come up with constructive alternatives directed at the achievement of mutual goals. These followers are potential leaders themselves .
Kelley’s ideas seem to be especially productive in light of the necessity to find solutions to such problems as suicide bombers, corporate abuse of power, or the rise of religious fundamentalism. It is clear that to solve these global issues, it is not enough to explore the leaders’ personalities and roots of their influence and charisma. For this purpose, it would be much more productive to understand and explain followers’ psychosocial, economic or other features and reasons, which forced or motivated them to follow cruel or sadistic leaders in the aforementioned cases. Finally, Kelley is right in the statement that followers “keep leaders and peers ethically and legally in check” . In other words, only followers themselves can defend society or community from toxic leaders and dysfunctional organizations. Active and thoughtful followers are able to prevent leaders from making decisions, which can potentially lead to disastrous consequences.
Another followership theory, which contributed to the research in this field, is the leader-member exchange theory (LMX). Uhl-Bien, Graen, Gerstner, Day and some other researchers developed its ideas, principles, and concepts . First of all, it should be emphasized that LMX theory focuses on the relationship between a leader and a follower. The central principle in this theory concerns the concept of effective relationships between a leader and a follower, which enable the achievement of mutual goals. In brief, the quality of these relations and interactions influences personal and organizational outcomes. Researchers in the field explored the consequences of LMX relationships, assessed leader and follower levels of agreement, examined the conditions, in which high-versus low-quality LMX relationships developed, and explained, how perceptions of supervisor competence, centralization, and organizational politics influenced followers’ willingness to exert effort on the job. Additionally, researchers of LMX theory examined how leaders together with followers transform from individual interests to shared interest based on the development of trust, respect, and obligations to each other. Similarly, theorists explored the issue of goal congruence between followers, leaders, and their organizations and its impact on the LMX relationship. Thus, the higher goal congruence reinforces the good quality of relationship between the people. Further, LMX has been viewed as a moderator and/or mediator of performance and work-related outcomes such as job satisfaction, work-related well-being, and organizational commitment . In his review of the leadership field, Avolio admits that LMX theory has encountered numerous criticisms, for example, concerning measurements of LMX, which were not based on logic or theory justifying the changes. Besides, LMX work is not predominantly conceptualized or examined in the larger social context. In short, leader-follower dyadic relationships were explored outside the system of other relationships. It is clear that for more productive results and theoretical assumptions, it is necessary to take a broader social perspective. Nevertheless, the LMX theory brings constructive ideas to the issue of developing the most effective leadership as well as followership. Comparing Kelley’s theory of five styles of followers and LMX theory, it is natural to assume that while the first stresses the qualities and features of followers’ personalities, the second replaces the focus on the sphere of interaction and interpersonal communication between the personalities of the leader and follower. Kelley’s approach regards followers and their issues separately whereas LMX emphasizes the common dimension. Of course, it is critical for each organization to develop effective subordinates with such positive qualities as organizational commitment, competency, active thinking abilities, courage, integrity, and credibility. However, no less significant are their relationships and attitudes to leaders since only in positive high quality relational atmosphere all followers’ personal advantages can be realized to the good of the mutual purpose.
By and large, theorists in the field of leadership have come to realize the necessity to view this phenomenon from various perspectives. In other words, it is possible to assert that to understand a leader one should also examine his followers. In the same manner, not only followers learn from their instructors but also wise and considerate leaders are open to acquire knowledge and experience from their subordinates. Efficient and effective leaders are always ready not only lead but also follow, in the dyad process of goal achievement. The current paper has analyzed three leadership and two followership theories. All in all, it is necessary to analyze both leadership and followership theories, in order to understand this process better and develop own authentic leadership style.