Disclaimer: Technical difficulties still need to be resolved. This post is by Allison Wilder
As an undergrad, I was a leader for the Vanderbilt Danceline and had to follow the main band director. We have discussed if someone can be both leader and follower, and in this experience I was exactly that. Kelley (1988) poses that “effective followers and effective leaders are often the same people playing different parts” (201).
This band director was an extremely ineffective leader. Geneen (1998) states “leadership is the ability to inspire other people to work together as a team following your lead…others must want to follow the leader” (4). Our team worked together, but not as a result of inspiration from the band director and not because we wanted to follow him. Pagonis (1992) explains leaders must possess two vital qualities: expertise and empathy. This leader had neither of these in regards to our team. The two forms of power he consistently used were legitimate and coercive. As explained by Hughes, Ginnet, and Curphy (1993), as a leader this band director should have “taken advantage of all power sources, had strong influence on followers and been open to being influenced by them, and shared power with followers” (347). He never did even one of the three. His ineffectiveness made my job as a Danceline leader much more difficult, and during many of our conversations in class I have asked myself, “What do you do if you don’t believe in your leader and truly see them as ineffective?” Can you still be an effective follower? What if the leader is holding you back? This scenario could generate some interesting discussion and maybe other people in the class can relate to my experience.
As Kelley stated, “But the reality is that most of us are more often followers than leaders”. (194). This is to say that even when we have the opportunity to lead and make a difference, we are still playing multiple roles because we will probably have a boss. So again, what does that mean for an “effective follower” under an ineffective leader? Kelley explains that effective followers differ from ineffective followers by being “self managed, committed, competent, focused, and courageous.” (196-200). The qualities for an effective follower look very similar to an effective leader. So can you be an effective follower by being an effective leader even if your boss is ineffective?
At first, it didn’t make sense to me that you could effectively follow someone if they were not effective to begin with. However, through the above information, I am arguing that you can because to an extent, your job as an “effective follower” can be to work or lead others to some degree independently of the higher leader. From my experience, that is exactly what I had to do.
I now pose this question. How can an “effective follower” work independently from the leader if they are truly in a relationship, a perspective that both McGregor (1966) and Rost (1991) support? I also agree with this perspective, but in this situation when the leader is absolutely ineffective, is it best for the “effective follower” to try to function outside the bounds of a relationship in order to inspire who they are leading? And if so, what that does mean for the perspective of leadership as a relationship?
One final question: So is ineffective leadership “bad” leadership or is leadership not even present? And if not, what then is “bad” leadership?