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Types of Leadership and Followership Styles

March 9, 2019 To: Blogs, GradeCrest Writing Guides


Leadership has received ascendancy in the past decade and has been the center of most scholarly as well as public and professional debates (Nohria and Khurana, 2010). Effective leadership is a requisite in any organization, nation or team that is or is aspiring successful. Leadership has been described as the ability to influence a group of people towards the achievement of set objectives. Certain qualities make some people a good leader while others still yet make one a poor leader. Just like there are various styles of leadership, are there followership styles. This report explores and details four leadership theories or style and four follow-ship styles that are available in the literature.

Leadership Theories and Styles

Transactional Leadership

Transactional leadership is also known as managerial leadership style mainly focuses on supervision of the followers or the subordinates.  This style of leadership involves the use of rewards and punishments by the leaders so that the group’s objective is met. Leaders who opt for transactional leadership are future-oriented and are ever challenged in maintaining good performance and organization in the group (Nohria and Khurana, 2010). The key mandate of the leader in this style of leadership is to ensure that the subordinates comply with the set standards (Malakyan, 2014). The leaders assess the output of the followers and try to spot failures and any deviations after which they employ punitive measures. On the other hand, subordinates who are identified as performers are rewarded (Malakyan, 2014). This type of leadership works best in crises as well as emergency situations. Contingent rewards or penalization are widely applied by transactional leaders (Nohria and Khurana, 2010). These leaders are not active but passive since they only come in when the status quo defines such as crisis situations.

Transformational Leadership

Transformational leadership theory describes a leadership that is aimed at creating positive change in the followers so that they collaborate with each other while still focused in achieving the goals of the whole group (Van Wart, 2008; Avolio and Yammarino, 2013). Transformational leadership optimizes motivation, boosts morale and thus enhances the productivity of the followers through the application of various methods. A transformational leader inspires and stimulates the followers beyond the unachievable goals (Chou, 2012). The leaders connect with the followers so as to connect with their self and motivate them (Bush, 2010). Secondly, the leaders also challenge the followers so that they are aligned to the tasks and also assisting the followers to understand their strengths as well as weaknesses (Nohria and Khurana, 2010). The major components of transformational leadership include inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation, personal and individual attention, and charisma or idealized influence (Avolio and Yammarino, 2013).

Participative Leadership

Participative leadership style is where the leader and the follower engage in the decision-making process. In this form of leadership, the followers are not competitive but rather more collaborative in the collective achievement of the objectives of the group (Chou, 2012). The leader and the followers are at one level with communication and collaboration being the key drivers.  Participative leaders include followers rather than taking autocratic decisions (Malakyan, 2014). The delegation of the work within the team is well coordinated. There are very many names for this form of leadership such as management by organization, democratic leadership, empowerment and consultation leadership (Malakyan, 2014). Participative leadership has been shown to increase the morale and thus productivity of the employees (Van Wart, 2008). Secondly, it also ensures high levels of organizational commitment and loyalty of the followers to their leader. This form of leadership also enhances the creativity and builds teamwork spirit in an organization (Bush, 2010). The leadership style fits in any situation that requires pertinent decision making process especially in matters that touch on both sides; leadership and follower’s side (Northouse, 2010). Through participative leadership, the followers are likely to accept policies and any other changes in the organization.

Authoritarian leadership

            Authoritarian leadership also referred in the literature as autocratic leadership refers to a leadership style where the leaders exert total control over all the decisions, actions and inputs of the subordinates (Northouse, 2010).  The leaders make choices and decisions from their own standpoint and rarely engage the followers (Nohria and Khurana, 2010). Even so, when the followers are engaged they always have a little participative role in the process of decision making. Authoritarian leaders always have control over the policies as well as procedures in the group or team in question (Nohria and Khurana, 2010). Authoritarian leadership style works best in scenarios where the followers or the whole organization is drifting towards the wrong direction.

The leadership style is also effective in situations where stern decisions have to be made abruptly (Martin, 2006). Additionally, authoritarian works best where high precision is required in performing the tasks. Authoritative leaders are independent in decision making and do not entrust the group or team members with important tasks. The leaders also require little to no feedback from the team members (Martin, 2006). Lastly, the leaders also do not use any form of empowerment on their followers. There are few drawbacks of this type of leadership. Firstly, long-term use of this style could lead to resistance among the followers (Martin, 2006). The followers are also less motivated and lack the ability to be creative.

Followership Styles

            Leadership is an interactive activity whose success depends on the followers and the leaders (O. Oyetunji, 2012). Followership refers to the willingness and ability to cooperate in achieving the goals and mission of a group by showing high degrees of cohesion, teamwork, and unity under the stewardship of the leader. There are different followership styles (Riggio, Chaleff and Lipman-Blumen, 2008).

Effective Follower

Effective followers are individuals who show high enthusiastic, intelligent self-reliant and ambitious at the same time, especially when in the team and when interacting with the leader (Forsyth, 2009). Effective followers have four major attributes that are peculiar to them. First off, effective followers are able to think critically, take control of the situations and their actions, show autonomy when acting and restrain from the wrong decision (Riggio, Chaleff and Lipman-Blumen, 2008). Therefore, effective followers show high levels of self-management through their skills and actions (Chou, 2012). Secondly, the effective followers in a team can be spotted based on their high commitment levels to the mission, vision, objective, goals and targets of a group, a team or an organization (Forsyth, 2009). From a wider perspective, these followers cooperate with others and thus boosting morale and productivity (O. Oyetunji, 2012).

Thirdly, these followers also exhibit high levels of competence through their unique combination of skills as well as aptitudes that is necessary for a team. These followers always update and upgrade their skills even if it means taking additional courses and attending seminars (Chou, 2012). Last but not least, these followers exhibit high levels of courage that makes them be self-confident and reliant (Chou, 2012). They always have an inbuilt system of beliefs and standards that they observe not to breach with high precision (Forsyth, 2009). These followers do not tolerate anything that is likely to jeopardize the team’s success such as corruption. Bottom-line is that effective followers are the best followers a leader would always wish for.

Alienated Follower

Alienated followers are followers who are never committed to the team or group’s goals (English, 2011). These type of followers do this on account that they want to maintain some autonomy from the influences of other team members that supposedly could ruin their perceptions and actions (Forsyth, 2009). These followers are ever silent but always question the leader’s direction and actions (O. Oyetunji, 2012). These followers think of themselves as the best in the group and so have little time engaging in the activities that are shared among the group members (English, 2011). They also fight for recognition whenever they do the right thing and will do anything to get noticed (Forsyth, 2009). Alienated followers always think critically, are independent and remain true to the conscience of the team. Additionally, they are always positive skeptics and are troublesome, negative, cynical, and are headstrong to the leader (O. Oyetunji, 2012).

This batch of followers are always passive in performing their duties just as they are in participating in teamwork (English, 2011). Additionally, they have low levels of engagement (Bush, 2010). In an organizational context, these followers always have low levels of job satisfaction and will always feel as if the team or organization is using them especially when their suggestions are not taken seriously (Forsyth, 2009). The good thing with this type of followers is that they do not hide their feelings and are always quick to register their disappointments. Additionally, alienated followers will always speak out their mind on ideas they disapprove and are always lack motivation when in the company of the team (Biech, 2010).

Conformist Follower

Conformist followers also referred in most literature as the yes people are followers who actively and energetically do their duties while at the same time show high levels of devotion to their leader (Forsyth, 2009; Bass, Stogdill and Stogdill, 2009). These followers always have the back of the leaders and never question the directions or actions of the leader. These followers are active in their participative role in the organization or team but demonstrate low levels of critical thinking (Forsyth, 2009). The god or bad thing with this type of followers is that they follow orders to the letter and are thus rigid in decision-making (O. Oyetunji, 2012). They always maintain their boundaries and are quick to shun away from actions they perceive are ill for the team. These followers will do anything to remain true to their leaders and are less independent when it comes to working and making decisions. They also exhibit high levels of loyalty to the leader and the team (Forsyth, 2009). Conformist followers are likely to survive and fit into different leadership regimes (Forsyth, 2009).

Passive Follower

Passive followers or sheep as they are referred to as in literature, are followers who are dormant to the actions of the group. Instead, they ever follow the lead of others in the group and exhibit low levels of commitment and enthusiasm (O. Oyetunji, 2012). They are the direct extreme of effective followers. This cohort of followers always engage in group activities and complete their duties in time. However, even so, to work effectively they must be followed up and closely monitored by the leader (Forsyth, 2009). To effectively reap from the passive followers a leader must engage rewards and punishments such that the passive followers are conditioned to act otherwise. Passive followers are neither creative nor are they ambitious making them the ineffective followers. These followers are always quick to avoid tasks that they feel are challenging as well as situations that demand their independent thinking and decision making (O. Oyetunji, 2012). These followers do not add extra efforts neither do they put in extra time for team or group activities. Passive followers are never concerned with the timelines, instead, they work at their pace and will leave a project halfway done when it is time to leave. This type of followers are unenthusiastic and demand constant supervision and follow-ups so as to complete the assigned tasks on time (Forsyth, 2009). Passive followers can easily be swayed by manipulative leaders because they lack loyalty to the team and do not have the ability to defend their actions.


            This far, I would prefer a participative leadership style in the context of a team owing to its inclusive nature and the associated mutual advantages that the followers and the leaders get. In terms of followership, the best followership is effective followership. These two combined can be able to stir a team into achieving great goals. Organizations and teams that are looking forward to succeeding should embrace a combination of these two. This will involve training and education that might be costly but effective in the long run.




Avolio, B. and Yammarino, F. (2013). Transformational and charismatic leadership. Bingley, UK: Emerald.

Bass, B., Stogdill, R. and Stogdill, R. (2009). Bass & Stogdill’s handbook of leadership. 3rd Ed. New York: Free Press.

Biech, E. (2010). The ASTD leadership handbook. Alexandria, Va.: ASTD Press.

Bush, T. (2010). Theories of educational leadership and management. London: Sage Publications.

Chou, S. (2012). Millennials in the Workplace: A Conceptual Analysis of Millennials’ Leadership and Followership Styles. Ijhrs, 2(2), 817-819.

English, F. (2011). The SAGE handbook of educational leadership. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: SAGE Publications.

Forsyth, D. (2009). Group dynamics. Washington, D.C.: Educational Pub. Foundation.

Malakyan, P. (2014). Followership in Leadership Studies: A Case of Leader-Follower Trade Approach. Journal of Leadership Studies, 7(4), pp.6-22.

Martin, B. (2006). Outdoor leadership. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Nohria, N. and Khurana, R. (2010). Handbook of Leadership Theory and Practice. Boston, Mass.: Harvard Business Press.

Nolan, S. (2009). Followership. How Followers Are Creating Change and Changing Leaders. Strategic HR Review, 8(3).

Northouse, P. (2010). Leadership: Theory and Practice. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage.

  1. Oyetunji, C. (2012). The Relationship between Followership Style and Job Performance in Botswana Private Universities. International Education Studies, 6(2).

Riggio, R., Chaleff, I. and Lipman-Blumen, J. (2008). The art of followership. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Van Wart, M. (2008). Leadership in public organizations. Armonk, N.Y.: M.E. Sharpe.

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