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Followership: The Missing Link in our Understanding of Leadership

Ronald E. Riggio, Claremont McKenna College; and Mary Uhl-Bien, University of Nebraska
This seminar will focus on the importance of followership in co-producing leadership. The presenters will overview the nascent field of followership research, emphasizing the implications of current theorizing and findings for leadership (and followership) development in organizations. Participants will learn about the current instruments being used in followership research, and be invited to engage in dialogue identifying the most promising avenues for future research in this area.
Research and practice in leadership and group processes is beginning to focus on followers in the leader-follower interaction. Historically, leaders have been seen as the active parties, with followers passively influenced (and often manipulated) by the behavior of the leader. Yet, new views of leadership are beginning to consider how leadership is co-produced in interactions between leaders and followers acting in context. Drawing on research on power dynamics, minority influence, cognition, and role theory, participants will learn about the emerging research on followers and followership. A central focus will be the emerging work on followership schema and implicit followership theories. The use of multi-level perspectives and analyses of leader-follower data to better understand the leader-follower dynamic will also be addressed. Finally, emphasis will be placed on the implications of follower research for strengthening both leadership development programs and interventions that focus on follower performance in groups and organizations.
Learning objectives:
  • Summarize prior research and critically evaluate theories of leadership and followership (cognitive and role).
  • Develop a model to help explain leader-follower dynamics.
  • Design future studies and interventions based on the existing knowledge of leadership and followership.
  • Identify practical implications for leadership and followership development.

Ronald E. Riggio is the Henry R. Kravis Professor of Leadership and Organizational Psychology and former director of the Kravis Leadership Institute at Claremont McKenna College. Professor Riggio is the author or editor of over a dozen books, and 100 book chapters and research articles in the areas of leadership, assessment centers, organizational psychology and emotional and nonverbal communication. His books include The Art of Followership, The Practice of Leadership (Jossey-Bass, 2008, 2007), Transformational Leadership (2nd ed.), coauthored with Bernard M. Bass (Erlbaum, 2006), Leadership and the Liberal Arts (2009; coedited with J. Thomas Wren and Michael Genovese), and Leadership Studies: The Dialogue of Disciplines (2012; coedited with Michael Harvey).  He has served as an organizational consultant to dozens of businesses and nonprofit organizations in the areas of selection, organizational development, and leadership assessment and development.

Mary Uhl-Bien is the Howard Hawks Chair in Business Ethics and Leadership at the University of Nebraska. Dr. Uhl-Bien’s research and teaching interests are complexity leadership, relational leadership, followership and ethics. Her research has been published in leading journals and books, and she has won best paper awards for her work on complexity leadership and followership theory. Professor Uhl-Bien is senior editor of the Leadership Horizons series for Information Age Publishers and has served on the editorial boards of Academy of Management Review, Academy of Management Journal, The Leadership Quarterly, Leadership, and International Journal of Complexity in Leadership and Management. She is a founding member of the Network of Leadership Scholars in the Academy of Management, and has conducted research in partnership with organizations including Lockheed Martin, Bank of America, Disney, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Air Force Academy.

Coordinator: Laurent M. LaPierre, University of Ottawa