Book Review: Barbara Kellerman, Followership: How Followers Are Creating Change and Changing Leaders. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Press, Followership: How Followers Are Creating Change and Changing Leaders by Barbara Kellerman. Harvard Business Press, Reviewed by David W. Gill. 16 Mar The typology of followership, from “Followership: How Followers are Creating Change and Changing Leaders” by Barbara Kellerman.

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Television still has a powerful hold on America’s national consciousness. To all appearances, the pope’s just issued insistence that the bishop recant his statements denying the Holocaust was less of his own volition than it was his response to protests worldwide threatening to undermine kellermann him and his church.

While some of the most glaring examples of corporate indulgence are being curbed or canceled – Goldman Sachs called off its big Miami hedge fund conference, Morgan Stanley eliminated trips to Monte Carlo and the Bahamas, and Bank of America announced three of its aircraft were up for sale – other extravagances continue.

Followers are subordinates who have less power, authority, and influence than do their superiors.

But when it spills into the political culture different rules must apply. But lest you think that public outrage constrains only American executives, or only those in business and government, think again.

While the situation particularly constrains Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak, the problem is widespread across the region, to the point where ordinary people, fueled by anger against Israel, limit the policy kellermah of their leaders.

As Timothy Geithner discovered on Tuesday, his one bad turn was all it took for us to judge him so weak a performer that it will be difficult, maybe impossible, for him to recover. Most of this democratization of popular culture is to the good. Fully 44 percent of the American people watched “American” at least once, and in one in ten Americans took the time and trouble to vote their Idol preference. But Geithner was not up for a People’s Choice Award.


Moreover it has birthed other shows, Dancing With the Starsfor example, which is also based on the proposition that while experts can and do weigh in, they have no more of a right to determine the outcome than do we. And just as we tend to overestimate the power of leaders, so we usually underestimate the power of followers. In January the pope revoked the excommunication of four bishops, including one who publicly denied the Holocaust happened.

But nor will they take center stage. Rather his appearances earlier this week were about economic policy during a time of crisis. For example, some followedship the nation’s smaller banks are continuing to party on, their leaders and managers oblivious to the changing times.

Still the question arises: Political leaders are followersyip the only ones who still don’t get it. In fact, we finally decide, we the viewing public, who goes to the next round, who goes home, and who is the winner.

Leading wisely and well was never easy – and it is harder now than it was. But it is more difficult still for leaders unable or unwilling to see that in the 21st century they have less power and influence – and their putative followers have more.

Read and comment on Barbara Kellerman’s previous Followership posts: We are encouraged at every turn to voice our vote immediately, by phoning in, text messaging, or going online. Though we associate the word “follower” with weakness, timorousness, and even failure – every one wants to be a leader, no one wants to be a follower – in fact leaders must, by definition, have at least one follower.


Leader-centrism confuses or denies the complexities of history, which include a cast of characters whom I call followers.

Blame it on the popular culture, which has affected, or maybe in fected, the political culture. I call it “the American Idolization” of American life, for it is the Fox TV show American Idol and its multiple progeny that have taught us to dispose of people after what sometimes is no fault more grievous than a single bad performance.

Each week this blog will explore and expose the power of followers. From where stems this sense of our entitlement?

The American people followegship got in the habit of shooting a man down for one gig gone awry. Our fixation on leaders is not only misguided, it’s downright mistaken. To diminish him, in particular so early in the game, is to diminish ourselves.

As a result he followershlp forced, just days after taking office, publicly to admit, “I screwed up. This is not to say the mob rules, but to point out that people without obvious sources followersbip power, authority or influence threaten their leaders. Now, in the 21st century, for a range of reasons that include changes in culture and technology, and generational shifts as well, followers are becoming stronger and leaders weaker. When will they learn? Bank of the Ozarks in Arkansas and International Bancshares of Texas are only two of those recently cited for having taken taxpayer money while their chief executives continue to live high on the hog.