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Three Top Models of Courageous Followership

Ecoggins has an MBA in global management from the University of Phoenix and a Bachelor of Arts in political science from CSU.

Followership is just as important as leadership.

Followership is just as important as leadership.

You're a Good Leader... But Are You a Good Follower?

For most of the 20th century, organizational behavior scientists focused on the leadership-management side of the leader-follower relationship. In the late 20th century (led by Robert Kelley, Ira Chaleff, and Rodger Adair, just to name a few), scholars began to turn at least some of their attention to the follower-subordinate side of the organizational development equation. Indeed they found that many were content to be followers, yet they were as committed to their organizations' short- and long-term success as any of the top executives they worked for.

Here are three followership models proposed by these organizational researchers.

Robert Kelley

Robert Kelley

Robert Kelley's Followership Model

Carnegie Mellon Professor Robert Kelley was the first to genuinely take up the plight of the follower-subordinate. First, he did so in a 1988 Harvard Business Review article, "In Praise of Followers," and then more formally in his seminal work The Power of Followership, published in 1992. Through his research, Kelley observed two general dimensions of followership including (a) the degree to which they think for themselves and (b) their attitudinal disposition towards the work. From these two dimensions, Kelley described five types of followers including:

  1. Sheep
  2. Yes-people
  3. Alienated
  4. Pragmatics
  5. Star followers


Kelley described sheep-type followers as passive. In essence, this type of follower does not exercise any level of critical thinking nor is he or she self-motivated to complete the given work. On the contrary, the sheep-type follower looks to the leader to do all thinking for them and to motivate them.

The Yes-People

Kelley described the yes-people follower type as those who are positive about their work, but who exercise no critical thinking for themselves. These types of workers can be strict conformists, looking for leaders for thinking, vision, and direction. Whatever the boss says, goes, and these followers do it enthusiastically.

The Alienated

According to Kelley, alienated-type followers think for themselves but have a negative disposition. Kelley suggested they were most likely exemplary followers at one time, but somehow, sometime, something turned them off; causing them to become hurt or angry, wanting to punish someone for it. Every time a leader has a new idea, the alienated follower comes up with umpteen reasons why the idea will not work. With the alienated follower, it is not about ability, but attitude.

The Pragmatics

Kelley described pragmatics as those who sit on the fence and see which way the wind blows. They wait until all the pieces are in place and then they jump in to do their part. In general, they see that new leaders come and go along with their new-fangled visions and ideas. They think that if they bide their time and do just enough to survive, that will be enough.

The Star Followers

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The star followers are those who exercise critical thinking, get actively involved, and have a positive disposition. They do not tend to accept the leader's decisions without taking time to think through all the ramifications of those decisions. If they agree with the soundness of the decision they back with all their most earnest effort. If they disagree with the decision and believe it will be detrimental to the health of the company, the star follower will openly challenge the leader's decision with specific recommendations of constructive alternatives. The star follower has earned the right to be heard because he or she always gives their best effort with a positive can-do attitude.

Dr. Ira Chaleff

Dr. Ira Chaleff

Ira Chaleff's Courageous Follower

A second model of followership was offered by Dr. Ira Chaleff of Executive Coaching & Consulting Associates. Chaleff's model was outlined in his publication The Courageous Follower: Standing Up to and for Our Leaders. Like Kelley, Chaleff (1995) divided his model of followership between two broad concepts including (a) level of support of leadership and (b) level of willingness to challenge the authority of leadership initiatives. Chaleff then divided the two broad concepts into four quadrants of Courageous Followership including:

  1. Resource
  2. Individualist
  3. Implementer
  4. Partner


Chaleff described Resource as the type of employee who displays low support and challenge. In general, this type of follower-subordinate shows up to work and does just enough to retain his position and no more. His only interest is in receiving a paycheck.


The individualist type follower demonstrates low support and high challenge. He is similar to Kelley's alienated follower. This type of subordinate will speak up when others are silent but is often marginalized due to being habitually antagonistic.


The implementer is like Kelley's yes-men. He or she demonstrates high support but a low challenge. Often the leader loves this follower more than others because they have a yes-sir-can-do attitude. However, the implementor will not speak up when he sees that the direction is less than worthy of the leader's ideals or corporate vision.


Chaleff labeled the courageous follower as a "partner." The partner-type follower displays both high support and high challenge. These types of followers take full responsibility for their own as well as the leader's behaviors and act accordingly. They give their whole heart to the leader's corporate vision and initiatives but are open and honest enough to speak up when something doesn't mesh with the organization's best interests.

Rodger Adair: 4-D Followership Model

Rodger Adair of the University of Phoenix and the Apollo Corporate University also offered a four-quadrant model of followership, entitled The 4-D Followership Model. Adair built his model on three broad concepts: (a) turnover or likely hood to stay; (b) job satisfaction; and (c) productivity. His four quadrants are labeled:

  1. Disciple
  2. Doer
  3. Disengaged
  4. Disgruntled


The disciple-type follower displays high job satisfaction, high productivity, and a low turnover rate. Their focus is on serving the needs of others. Adair described the disciple as the type of employee or subordinate who feels engaged. They tend to be highly productive and plan to stay with the organization for many years to come. They are teamed focused and are willing to give up opportunities to excel individually as they help others reach their potential.


The doer-type follower is high in productivity, but low in job satisfaction and therefore high in turnover rate. Their main focus is on serving their own needs. These employee-subordinates are highly self-motivated and are overjoyed to be members of the team. Moreover, Adair sees them as enterprising and highly productive, but no matter where they land these follower types are nearly always looking for a better position elsewhere.


The disengaged follower is low in all three categories. They are low in job satisfaction and productivity but are unlikely to leave the organization unless forced to do so. The main focus of the disengaged is a passive reaction to stress. According to Adair, this type of subordinate tends to be (a) noninclusive and nonresponsive; (b) unteachable with no desire to improve; (c) dreads change; (d) engages in guarded communication; and (e) weak work ethic.


According to Adair, the disgruntled-type employee is low in both job satisfaction and productivity and highly unlikely to remain with the firm. This type of follower subordinate is not a team player and has a highly corrosive personality. Moreover their negative disposition stifles their productivity and they have a difficult time following through with a given task or project.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.


ecoggins (author) from Corona, California on August 15, 2011:

Dr. Chaleff, what an honor to have you comment on my hub. I cannot say how much I appreciate your encouragement.

Ira Chaleff on August 15, 2011:

Good survey of the emerging followership field!

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