Followership – The Real Leadership Key to Improvement in Public Schools

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Two years ago School District 74 organized a series of leadership workshops designed to strengthen the leadership performance of school administration and teaching staff. Participants were encouraged to think of themselves as leaders and to identify situations in which they were or could be leaders. The idea seemed to be not only that our school system will be improved through the development of strong leadership (on its own an important recognition), but also that anyone (and everyone) can be a leader in his or her own position within the system. This is a ridiculous idea. If leadership is approached as the only label that designates personal merit or importance, then the implication is that followers are less capable, less thoughtful …show more content…
And if our school district or any other employer addresses only the need for leadership, then they are addressing only part of what is needed for long-term positive change. Followership is now recognized as an integral part of leadership, and as such cannot be ignored in considering the effectiveness of any organization. Rost went so far as to say that there is actually “no such thing as followership in the new school of leadership”, rather that followers and leaders are both engaged in the process of leadership (Rost in Wren, 1995, p.192). John Gardner called leadership a subtopic of “the accomplishment of group purpose” (Gardner, in Wren, 1995, p.4). To recognize a group is, of course, to recognize followers as well as leaders, and to suggest that the group shares in a purpose means that followers have a conscious productive role to play in the accomplishment of the purpose. Gardner further noted the need for leaders to “learn the art of turning subordinates into followers” (p.186). Just as there has been debate for decades over the meaning of leadership, there is now debate over the meaning of followership, but while some scholars prefer to avoid the word because of its assumed negativity, it is impossible to conceive of leadership without followers. Whatever they may be called, good followers are critically important to good leaders. It is, after all, the followers

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