A Celebration of Followership – The Book
This unique retrospective, with over three hundred rarely seen documents, traces the impact of Ira Chaleff’s ground breaking work that conceives of followership as the indispensable complement to leadership. Building on this record, it introduces the work of the community of followership educators and practitioners that has flourished in tandem with those initiatives.
The narratives preceding each chronological segment place the documents in historic context. They suggest new veins of research for the upcoming generation of scholars drawn to this emerging field. The narratives inform, clarify, surprise, at times amuse and often inspire.
The theorists, educators, trainers and coaches engaged with the subject of followership are a highly motivated group. They understand the power of the subject to change the way leadership is done, to support its virtues, curb its excesses and improve its outcomes. They also perceive that much of the world doesn’t know about followership or sufficiently value it. There is truth in this statement. But it is not the entire truth.
The purpose of this volume is to document the impressive variety of countries and institutions where courageous followership, and the other major followership models, have made their impact. Filling in this picture will bolster the commitment of the followership community to find better ways of developing dynamic and ethical followership in society, a manifestly crucial need in the face of leadership failures and transgressions. In that sense, this is a love letter to the followership community and an inscription on the baton Chaleff is passing to them.
- VOLUME I 1983–1993
- VOLUME II 1993 – 2001
- VOLUME III 2002–2004
- VOLUME IV 2005–2006
- VOLUME V 2006–2007
- VOLUME VI 2008
- VOLUME VII 2009
- VOLUME VIII 2010–2011
- VOLUME IX 2012–2014
- VOLUME X 2015–2016
- VOLUME XI 2017–2020
- VOLUME XIIA
- VOLUME XIIB
- THE ROAD TO FOLLOWERSHIP: Congress, the White House and the Private Sector
- THE COURAGEOUS FOLLOWER: The Book, the Video, and Nigerian Knockoffs
- THE COURAGEOUS FOLLOWER SECOND EDITION:A Silver Award, and Lessons for Revolutionaries
- FOLLOWERSHIP REIMAGINED: The Conference at Claremont, The Tour of India and Interest from Educators to Ethicists
- THE ART OF FOLLOWERSHIP: Bennis and Burns: Leadership Icons Tribute to Followership
- FOLLOWERSHIP IN MANY LANGUAGES: The Concept Across Cultures
- FOLLOWERSHIP EVERYWHERE: From the Church to the Chiefs of Staff, From the Lunchroom to the Military
- THE COURAGEOUS FOLLOWER, THIRD EDITION: Georgetown, National Parks, Servant Leadership, and The Tragedy of the Commons
- YEARS OF RECOGNITION: Elevating Followership at the State Department, the Naval Academy, the Federal Executive Institute, and Beyond
- INTELLIGENT DISOBEDIENCE: The Ethics of Followership: Milgram, Zimbardo, Corporate America, Asian Educators and Chinese Censors
- TEACH THE YOUNG AND OLD: Intelligent Disobedience for Children and the Military; Training Courageous Follower Educators
- THE INTERNATIONAL LEADERSHIP ASSOCIATION: Uncovering Its Forgotten Followership DNA
- A FUTURE HOME: The Inseparability and Equal Importance of Leadership and Followership
- Keynote Address, Global Followership Conference University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
TWENTY-FIVE YEARS AGO, when The Courageous Follower’s first edition was published, it is safe to say there were no university level courses that focused on followership, nor was followership part of organizational development programs. Today, a number of universities offer followership courses and most contain material on followership in their leadership curriculum. Likewise, many leadership development programs in the military, government, for profit and non-profit sectors offer followership workshops or followership modules.
The researchers, educators, practitioners, trainers and coaches who are engaged with the subject of followership are a highly motivated group that understand the power of the subject to change the way leadership is done and to improve its results. Nevertheless, when you talk with them, there is also a sense that much of the world still doesn’t know about followership or sufficiently value it. There is truth in this statement. But it is not the entire truth.
The purpose of this volume is to anecdotally document how many places in our world the subject of followership, and in particular courageous followership, has made an impact. Understanding this will bolster the commitment of the followership community for researching, teaching, and finding better ways to develop the role of the ethical follower in society, a manifestly crucial need. In that sense, this is a love letter to the followership community and an inscription on the baton I am passing to them.
A Celebration of Followership – VOLUME VII
A Clebration of Followership – FOLLOWERSHIP EVERYWHERE:
From the Church to the Chief of Staff,
From the Lunchroom to the Military
TO OPEN THIS CHAPTER, I’VE SELECTED AN INVITATION to speak on Followership from the Tobias Center for Leadership Excellence at Indiana University. They have strong ties to the International Leadership Association and put on a high quality annual Multi-Sector Forum. Indiana Wesleyan University, up the road a bit, was a regular contributor to both the Tobias Center and the ILA and itself had a strong contingent of followership scholars (7-1)
The challenges of ethical followership of course thread through the current events of the day in any age. In 2009 the United States’ ill-advised invasion of Iraq, which continues to painfully reverberate throughout the region, was a hot button issue. I am including the response from a reader to an essay in Newsweek Magazine titled “Dilemma of Dissent,” which explores the difficult ethical choice facing a White House official on whether to resign in protest to ill conceived policies or to stay and try to improve the Administration’s policy making. It is a classic dilemma for ethical followers – whether to stay aboard to mitigate wrong doing or to resign in protest and lose the insider’s potential to influence decision making. The individual posting the response likens the issue to “a case study from The Courageous Follower” (7-2). Indeed it could be.
You will see an article by Ron Riggio who had become a contributing writer to the magazine Psychology Today. He writes on an impressive range of social psychology issues for them. Increasingly, his essays pertain to followership, as does the one I have included here: “Want to be a Great Leader? Learn to Follow” (7-3). Ron continues to this day to increase his focus on many aspects of followership and has become an important voice in the field.
In 2009, we see more books added to the small shelf of works on followership. The most important was Followership: How Followers are Creating Change and Changing Leaders by Barbara Kellerman. This has become a classic (7-4). From this point, all her books have included a focus on followership, viewing it as one of the legs of the leader-follower-context construct with which to analyze leadership and followership behavior
A translation of the 17th century French classic, Treatise on the Court, caught my attention because of its similarity to my reference to Baldesar Castiglione’s 16th century Book of the Courtier in the frontispiece of The Courageous Follower, discussing the responsibility to keep the prince virtuous. The translator of the treatise sent a letter referencing my work and asking for thoughts on further research in this area (7-5). Focusing on ethical followership in inner circles of political power is perhaps the most important aspect of followership studies.
We see a clever book, Be The Horse or the Jockey, by Jeanne Gulbranson, examining the fluidity of leading and following in the context of the horse and its rider (7-6). I applaud all efforts to bring concepts of followership into the world beyond academia. I particularly appreciate the use of a strong, intelligent animal in examining the leader-follower dynamic. These are needed to counter and replace the tiresome and worrisome image of followers as sheep or lemmings. Perhaps the most successful of these to date are the image of migrating geese that rotate the lead position, which encounters the strongest headwinds.
The author of Be The Horse or the Jockey, Jeanne Gulbranson, was active in discussions on how to increase the acceptance to followership classes and workshops. Most of the courageous follower seminars and workshops I conducted were modules in leadership development programs, so participants weren’t faced with deciding whether or not to enroll for a followership class. Jeanne heard me report that when I conducted a stand-alone workshop, I needed to frame the topic differently in order to attract enrollments. For example, on occasion I used titles such as this for my workshop: Courageous Leaders, Courageous Followers: Transforming Hierarchical Relationships into Powerful Partnerships. Jeanne posted a comment on LinkedIn “If Ira Chaleff is challenged to attract participants to a followership seminar…then it bodes ill for the rest of us!” (7-7). In the best fighting spirit she goes on to say what she was planning to do to increase the acceptance of followership on its own terms.
I am also including a LinkedIn message from a recently retired Air Force officer who was interested in writing a book on followership for the Department of Defense to introduce new recruits to the subject (7-8). He reports that he spent about two hours of the course he taught at Airmen Leadership School on the subject of followership and that the Air Force recently included followership in its performance reports. Note, that in most cases in which we see followership entering a curriculum, the students are exposed to both Robert Kelley and my models and often to Barbara Kellerman’s as well. Diversity in exploring the subject and activating positive, ethical followership behavior serves the field well and undoubtedly will expand in coming years.
My work with the US Congress and my work on followership had a natural intersection. Motivationally, I was drawn to both from my desire to see power, particularly political power, used more beneficially for the benefit of others. So, it was not surprising to be invited to conduct a seminar for the US Senate Chiefs of Staff, sponsored by the Pew Foundation, and held at Monticello, the famed home of Thomas Jefferson. I called the session “The Prince and the Courtier: The Art of Providing Guidance and Feedback to Senators.” (7-9)
Chiefs of Staff from about 50 of the 100 Senate offices participated, with Republicans and Democrats fairly equally represented. The idea behind the retreat was to give these senior staff, who often exert significant influence on their Senator’s decision making, a chance to know each other better in a non-partisan setting. It is these types of relationships that can make a crucial difference when the time comes for working out compromises needed to pass legislation.
Given my familiarity with the world in which they worked, the talk went well. There was, however, one moment that remains indelibly printed on me. I was not aware that the Chief of Staff to Senator Bernie Sanders was a self-appointed poet to his Senate colleagues. Apparently, each week he sent them a poem that in his estimation would be of interest. I forget the exact point I was making, but presumably it was about authority. Without so much as a “by your leave” he interjected into the room the line from E.E.Cummings poem I Sing of Olaf which, in language fitting the rawness of the poem, said “I will not kiss your fucking flag.” I was momentarily stunned as I had little question that the Chiefs from conservative offices would be mortified by this polarizing statement. While there are very few poems from which I can quote a line from memory, given the power of this poem about a conscientious objector brutalized for his beliefs, I was able to respond, saying that I was surprised he chose that line and not “there is some shit I will not eat.” This was an equally powerful line without the polarizing overtones. I felt my retort break the tension and we carried on the seminar without further reference to this interjection that quite literally came from left field.
One of the goals of this book is to help followership practitioners perceive how broadly the subject of followership is making an imprint. The next documents are further evidence of this. I am particularly pleased by the NASA solicitation for proposals for leader-follower workshops (7-10). Studies of famous NASA launch disasters showed that culture was a prime factor. Robert Kelley used the Challenger disaster as a case in point in his book The Power of Followership. A culture that supports candor and respect for dissenting voices is inextricable to a culture of safety and success.
Another crucial institution in the US is the Smithsonian Institution. While people planning a visit to Washington think it is a single museum, in fact it is 19 museums, 21 libraries and 9 research centers, one of which is two miles from my home in rural Virginia. As a prime engine of cultural and natural history it is staffed with a broad diversity of highly educated researchers and thousands of facilities personnel to maintain and secure its properties and collections. For several years I conducted courageous follower workshops that drew participants from all of these units, as well as conducting workshops for individual museums. I have included a message from Sue Tillotson, one of the Smithsonian program coordinators (7-11).
I am also including an email from a retired Assistant Police Chief working on a course curriculum for the International Association of Chiefs of Police (7-12). It’s a request to use the Meditation on Followership found at the back of The Courageous Follower. This twenty point meditation, unusual for an otherwise expository book, has at times drawn unexpected interest. The University of La Verne in Southern California, with programs designed for mid-career adults, punches above its weight in the caliber of guest speakers (many more prominent than me) it was able to draw to its leadership classes. On one of my visits there, after my talk and class discussion, I was asked to stand in the middle of the room. Twenty of the students stood up and distributed themselves on the perimeter of the room. Each, in turn, recited one of the meditations. It was extraordinarily moving. Years later, my great Argentine collaborator, Dario Orlando Fernandez, made these meditations into a deck of cards, each with an action photo from a different international sport (7-13, 7-14).
Based on courageous follower workshops I taught through the auspices of the Ombuds office at Sandia National Laboratories, I was invited to give a talk on courageous followership at a conference held by three Ombuds associations in Montreal, Canada (7-15). “Ombudsman” is a Scandinavian word. It is not gendered, but in English it sounds as though it is, so contemporary practice is often to shorten it to “Ombuds”. Many large organizations have an Ombuds office. It is a safe place for individual employees to bring concerns they may not be sure rise to a Human Resource matter or ethical violation, or which they do not know how to address. As such, it is a good fit for courageous followership, which tries to use both the individual and the organization’s resources to address wrongs before they compound to a level where whistleblowing is considered. My nephew, Adam Chaleff, himself a political activist, was a student in Montreal at the time and was able to join me. I appreciated this as there are few opportunities for family members to see what one does in the course of a life’s work.
Another program I am including in this chapter contains highlights from a conference of the School Nutrition Association, where I was invited to give the closing keynote address (7-16). I am doing this for a specific reason. It’s great that followership is increasingly found in university level curriculum and in the education programs of major national and international institutions. But to make a difference in the world, it needs to come out of academia and elite institutions and move into the many arenas of life in which leadership and followership interweave, especially in their ethical dimensions. Imagine, for example, school cafeteria workers who come under budgetary pressure to use food after the refrigerators where the food was stored went out during a power outage. Health and, in extreme cases, even lives depend on the ability to hold their ground in the face of authority. On a similar note, a grocery stock clerk once reported they were pressured to place eggs in new cartons when they were past the expiration date on the original carton. The attitudes and skills of courageous followership are germane at every level of society.
While we see many examples of followership models being discussed and taught in major public institutions, it is important not to lose sight of the private sector drivers in a free market economy. After the great recession of 2008, the US automobile industry faced the prospect of collapse. With the controversial intervention of the federal government, all the major automobile manufacturers survived. Nevertheless, the stresses on their work forces were significant. Theresa Rich was responsible for the difficult task of employee engagement during those trying times. She was also familiar with and an advocate for courageous followership. She wrote a powerful memo that authentically spelled out the challenges facing her, and all her fellow GM employees, and titled it: “Courageous Followers in the New GM” (7-17).
The Courageous Follower takes pains to balance the virtues of excellent support for leaders’ trying their best to serve the group’s mission, and a willingness to speak up constructively when the same leaders are overlooking or creating danger to the group’s mission and the well being of its stakeholders. As one example of the latter, I wrote in the introduction to the book: “A priest must be willing to tell the bishop that moral turpitude is being covered up in his see.” Tragically, we know how widespread was the failure to give and receive that message.
Possibly because of this, I was not prepared for how much engagement there has been from Christian communities of faith for the principles of courageous followership. A considerable amount of followership research has emerged from institutions like Regent University, and those of different denominations. In some ways my favorite example is the document you will see from Sisters of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament in Victoria, Texas, announcing they have ordered copies of The Courageous Follower for each of their Governance Core Group. They conclude their announcement with these lovely words: “When we finish scooping out the gems, we will pass on the books to anyone interested in exploring this idea” (7-18).
Providing one more example of courageous followership in a different denominational setting, I have included an email from Elisabeth Null who at the time was my research assistant. Elisabeth is a highly revered traditional ballads singer, and a prodigious intellect and social activist. She reports giving The Courageous Follower to a former Baptist minister from Georgia who was buying one of her musical instruments and recounts the story of how he applied it to correct unethical behavior in the company where he then worked. The experience was transformative and, per Elisabeth, was a factor in him returning to the cloth and forming a new congregation (7-19).
I think you can sense the deep appreciation I feel at followership finding resonance in the gamut of fields from the military and law enforcement, to major institutions and corporate behemoths, to a range of religious denominations. Of course, a characteristic that binds these disparate groups together is the seriousness given to hierarchical structure, and thus the need to balance that with a sense of personal responsibility and the tools to speak up when needed.