Leadership Through Followership: Examining the Life of Edith Cavell

1882 Words Jun 7th, 2011 8 Pages
Leadership through Followership: Examining the Life of Edith Cavell
During her final hours in the clutches of the German forces during the First World War, Edith Louisa Cavell summarized her life’s work with the famous quote, “I realize that patriotism is not enough; I must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone.” These words capture not only the spirit of who Edith Cavell was and what she stood for; they embody the very essence of what it means to be a nurse. Theorists and scholars alike have stated that the core component of the nursing profession is caring. To Edith Cavell, caring knew no boundaries, and thus, neither did her nursing expertise. While it is correct to view Edith Cavell and her heroic actions during her life through
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Grossman and Valiga have further expanded on the word ‘follower’ and have coined the term “effective follower” (2009, p. 41). In contrast to the above definition, the effective follower “functions independently, thinks critically about ideas that are proposed or directions that are suggested, and [is] actively involved” (Grossman & Valiga, 2009, p. 41). They further suggest that effective followers have six common characteristics also possessed by effective leaders: assertiveness, determination, courage, an ability to act as a change agent, openness to new ideas and willingness to challenge ideas, and a willingness to serve (2009, p. 44). Edith Cavell displayed all of the above traits at one point or another during her lifetime which suggests she was an effective follower, and therefore, an effective leader.
Edith Cavell was assertive, determined, and courageous. In defiance of the Red Cross’s code of non-military involvement (2011) as well as German military code of conduct, she continued to smuggle British men out of occupied Belgium despite knowing in full that a sentence of death by court martial was the penalty. Upon capture and interrogation by the German military, she confessed in full to her alleged crimes of treason, a testament to not only her courageous nature but her rigid abidance to her values. She continued to serve her…

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