Leadership Institute


Date of this Version



Published in The Leadership Quarterly 21 (2010), pp. 543–562; doi:10.1016/j.leaqua.2010.03.015 Copyright © 2010 Elsevier Inc. Used by permission.


This study adopts a qualitative approach to deconstruct the meaning of followership. Interviews were conducted with employees in various industries to examine how individuals socially construct their roles as followers and to explore followership schemas and contextual influences that relate to these constructions. Results suggest that while some individuals socially construct definitions around passivity, deference and obedience, others emphasize the importance of constructively questioning and challenging their leaders. With regard to personal qualities that are thought to make followers effective, major themes such as obedience, expressing opinions, and taking initiative were found to be most disparate across different groups of followers. Results also revealed that contextual factors may affect both followership constructions and behavior in the follower role. These findings have important implications regarding a need to examine the construct of followership in leadership research, as well as raise interesting possibilities for advancing an “expanded” view of leadership in organizations.