Maybe it’s time to consider ‘followership’

Maybe it’s time for leaders to encourage followers to consider the ways they can and should work, Alun Rees says.

One of the current buzzwords in (UK) dentistry is ‘leadership’.

The GDC wants it, the CQC insists that you show it and I keep hearing how the profession needs it.

There is no end of people telling you the difference between leaders and managers, the qualities of both, and how you become a leader.

Peter Drucker once said: ‘If you say you’re a leader and no one is following you then all you are is out for a walk’.


I will not attempt to bring down the importance of leaders but it isn’t the role for everyone, all the time.

We must give consideration to ‘followership’ – the ability to follow others.

On first thought, this is not an obvious characteristic, but as the FT lexicon says: ‘It requires accepting “difference” and that others can be better in particular aspects’.

Defining roles

There may be a tendency to imagine that all followers are mere cyphers who are unquestioning and do as they are told without a second thought.

Yet the ideal (exemplary) follower is definitely not passive, they can and will provide a valuable support to a leader.

They listen, reflect, comply, question and legitimise the leader.

Others can exhibit conformist, passive and sometimes alienated traits depending upon their thinking and traits.

Many surveys show that the majority of employees are dissatisfied at work.

Whilst all the emphasis is on the leaders and little on the followers, it is unlikely that the needs of followers will be addressed, let alone met.

Perhaps it’s time to seriously consider encouraging followers to take on different, defined roles and to examine the ways that they can and should function.

The future in dentistry and all professions depends upon us functioning as better teams that will need all of us to understand and fully embrace teamwork.

Read more from Alun:

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