AIR COMMAND AND STAFF COLLEGE

AU/ACSC/CORROTHERS/AY09

AIR COMMAND AND STAFF COLLEGE

AIR UNIVERSITY

SAY NO TO “YES MEN”:

FOLLOWERSHIP IN THE MODERN MILITARY

by

Eve M. Corrothers, Major, USAF

A Research Report Submitted to the Faculty

In Partial Fulfillment of the Graduation Requirements

Advisor: LtCol Brian W. Landry

Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama

April 2009

cassandra.hailes
Text Box
Distribution A: Approved for public release; distribution unlimited.

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14. ABSTRACT he Air Force can greatly benefit by increasing the role of followership in professional military education at all ranks, officer and enlisted, to help create more effective leaders. It is important to understand that leadership and followership are complementary competencies and military leaders must work to master both of them. Regardless of rank, every member of the United States Military is a subordinate to someone, whether it is to the Secretary of Defense or a newly commissioned Lieutenant. In the military community, every officer is both a leader and follower simultaneously in every position they hold. Therefore, it is vital for officers to hone their followership skills in addition to leadership skills to improve their overall effectiveness. Just as followers are expected to learn from leaders, the converse should also hold true. Leaders that learn from followers become more effective leaders. Understanding this, effective followership requires both dissent and flexibility these essential elements must be part of the development of 21st century Air Force senior leaders. This paper draws from the current body of knowledge on followership focusing on the foundational works and the followership styles they identify. It includes in-depth analysis of two traits recommended for effective leaders. This paper uses the problem/solution research methodology. The idea is not to provide a cookie-cutter follower checklist. Rather, the goal of this work is to initiate discussion of both the importance of followership and how the development and improvement of followership skills can improve the effectiveness of Air Force leaders.

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AU/ACSC/CORROTHERS/AY09

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this academic research paper are those of the author(s) and do not

reflect the official policy or position of the US government or the Department of Defense. In

accordance with Air Force Instruction 51-303, it is not copyrighted, but is the property of the

United States government.

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AU/ACSC/CORROTHERS/AY09

Contents

Disclaimer ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… ii

Figures………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. iv

Preface…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… v

Abstract ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… vi

Why Followership?…………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 1

Foundations of Followership ……………………………………………………………………………………………. 5

Followership Styles……………………………………………………………………………………………………… 6

The Five Dimensions of a Courageous Follower …………………………………………………………… 10

Followers are to Leaders as Water is to Fish …………………………………………………………………. 14

Dissent: “Yes Men” Need Not Apply………………………………………………………………………………. 16

Flexibility is Not Just for Airpower …………………………………………………………………………………. 21

Leadership Requires Followership ………………………………………………………………………………….. 25

Appendix A – Followership “Top Ten Lists”……………………………………………………………………. 27

Endnotes………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 30

Bibliography ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 34

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Figures

Figure 1: Kelley’s Followership Styles. …………………………………………………………………………….. 7

Figure 2: Chaleff’s Followership Styles …………………………………………………………………………….. 9

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AU/ACSC/CORROTHERS/AY09

Preface

This paper is an attempt to raise awareness of how truly essential effective followership

skills are, on their own and more importantly, as a complement to leadership skills. It may strike

some as perverse to take a leadership course and choose to focus primarily on followership.

However, during the course of my leadership studies, I couldn’t help but notice a gap in this

particular field of research. It is necessary to understand that in the military, even when in

leadership positions, we are all followers. As such, leaders must not forget about using the

characteristics and skills they learned as good followers. Followership may not be seen as

glamorous – kids want to grow up to be the president, not a member of the presidential staff.

This work hopes to convey how much Air Force officers can benefit as leaders from developing

and improving followership skills throughout the span of their military careers.

First and foremost, huge thanks go to my advisor LtCol “Coach” Landry for introducing

the leadership theories and ideas that really helped me make connections and take directions in

my research I never would have come up with on my own. I would also like to thank LtCol

Dowty for helping me formulate my topic and focus my ideas. Most importantly, I could not

have survived any of this without the encouragement and support of my husband and fellow

student Jason, the time we spent discussing ideas while driving to and from school made all the

difference.

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AU/ACSC/CORROTHERS/AY09

Abstract

The Air Force can greatly benefit by increasing the role of followership in professional

military education at all ranks, officer and enlisted, to help create more effective leaders. It is

important to understand that leadership and followership are complementary competencies and

military leaders must work to master both of them. Regardless of rank, every member of the

United States Military is a subordinate to someone, whether it is to the Secretary of Defense or a

newly commissioned Lieutenant. In the military community, every officer is both a leader and

follower simultaneously in every position they hold. Therefore, it is vital for officers to hone

their followership skills in addition to leadership skills to improve their overall effectiveness.

Just as followers are expected to learn from leaders, the converse should also hold true. Leaders

that learn from followers become more effective leaders. Understanding this, effective

followership requires both dissent and flexibility – these essential elements must be part of the

development of 21st century Air Force senior leaders. This paper draws from the current body of

knowledge on followership focusing on the foundational works and the followership styles they

identify. It includes in-depth analysis of two traits recommended for effective leaders. This paper

uses the problem/solution research methodology. The idea is not to provide a cookie-cutter

follower checklist. Rather, the goal of this work is to initiate discussion of both the importance of

followership and how the development and improvement of followership skills can improve the

effectiveness of Air Force leaders.

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AU/ACSC/CORROTHERS/AY09

Why Followership?

The first page of Air Force Doctrine Document (AFDD) 1-1, Leadership and Force

Development, defines leadership; the following quote is an excerpt of that definition:

Leadership does not equal command, but all commanders should be leaders. Any Air Force member can be a leader and can positively influence those around him or her to accomplish the mission.

The vast majority of Air Force leaders are not commanders. These individuals, who have stepped forward to lead others in accomplishing the mission, simultaneously serve as both leaders and followers at every level of the Air Force.1

Regardless of rank, every member of the United States Military is a subordinate to

someone whether it is to the Secretary of Defense or a newly commissioned Lieutenant. In the

military community, every officer should be considered a leader and follower simultaneously in

every position they hold but as is evident in the Air Force’s definition, the focus is on leadership.

The Air Force professional military education concentrates on developing every officer as if he

or she will one day become the Chief of Staff. However, a leader cannot lead without followers.

The Air Force and the officer corps could greatly benefit by increasing the role of followership in

professional military education for officers to help them as they work toward becoming effective

leaders. The question is, how can officers best serve, using followership to make them better

leaders?

The quote above from AFDD 1-1 about leadership mentions that Airmen are leaders and

followers at the same time. The document goes on to claim, “Desirable behavioral patterns of

these leaders and followers are identified in this doctrine and should be emulated in ways that

improve the performance of individuals and units.”2 However, as you read further you never

quite find useful guidance or even a definition of followership. When discussing personal

leadership Air Force doctrine states that followership is an important skill to have and the tactical

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level of force development is where one should focus on developing it. At the operational and

strategic level, the topic of Airmen as followers is briefly mentioned. The operational level

states, “based on a thorough understanding of themselves as leaders and followers and how they

influence others, they apply an understanding of organizational and team dynamics.”3 At the

strategic level it is not much different, “based on a thorough understanding of themselves as

leaders and followers, and how to use organizational and team dynamics, they apply an in-depth

understanding of leadership at the institutional and interagency levels.”4 Airmen are left to their

own devices to find out more information on followership.

When one delves further into Air Force publications, the term followership shows up in

only 14 documents out of over 2,500 documents posted on the official source site for Air Force

administrative publications.5 Of those 14, only two offer anything beyond a brief mention of the

word followership. Air Force Pamphlet (AFPAM) 36-2241, Professional Development Guide, is

the source for promotion exams for the enlisted force; officers do not take comparable tests for

promotion. Whereas leadership rates a whole chapter and extensive discussion, followership is

included as a subset of leadership and is boiled down to 10 qualities. The guide explains, “There

are 10 points essential to good followership; however, the list is neither inflexible nor

exhaustive:”6