The Role of Followership in Industrial Psychology

In the field of industrial psychology, the emphasis on leadership development has long been a cornerstone. The prevailing narrative often suggests that everyone should aspire to be a leader, wielding influence and guiding teams towards success. However, a more nuanced perspective is emerging—one that acknowledges the significance of followership in fostering a healthy and productive work environment.

The Pressure to Lead

The traditional view in industrial psychology has perpetuated the notion that every employee should strive to become a leader. Countless leadership development programs and seminars have flourished, aiming to cultivate leadership qualities in individuals at various organizational levels. While leadership skills are undoubtedly valuable, the assumption that everyone must ascend to a leadership role may be misguided.

Not everyone possesses the innate traits commonly associated with effective leadership, such as charisma, assertiveness, and strategic thinking. For some, the pressure to conform to these expectations can lead to stress, burnout, and a sense of inadequacy. This phenomenon has prompted psychologists to explore the importance of recognizing and embracing diverse roles within the organizational structure.

The Role of Followership

Followership, often overshadowed by the spotlight on leadership, plays a crucial role in the dynamics of any workplace. In their article “The Forgotten Follower: A Contingency Model of Leadership and Followership,” Riggio and Reichard highlight the significance of followership in creating a well-rounded and functional team. They argue that effective followership involves actively contributing to the team’s goals, providing valuable feedback, and demonstrating a strong work ethic.


Encouraging individuals to excel in their respective roles, whether as leaders or followers, fosters a more collaborative and supportive work environment. This perspective aligns with the idea that not everyone needs to be a leader; instead, individuals can contribute meaningfully to the organization by embracing their unique strengths and skills.

Leadership and Followership as Complementary Forces

In the Harvard Business Review article “Why Should Anyone Be Led by You?” by Goffee and Jones, the authors emphasize the importance of authenticity and self-awareness in leadership. They argue that effective leaders understand their strengths and weaknesses and leverage their unique qualities to inspire and guide their teams. This perspective implies that effective leaders must also recognize and appreciate the contributions of their followers.

By acknowledging the symbiotic relationship between leadership and followership, industrial psychologists can work towards creating organizational cultures that value and celebrate diverse skill sets. This approach not only promotes a more inclusive workplace but also maximizes the potential for innovation and success.

Striking a Balance

While cultivating leadership skills remains crucial, industrial psychologists are increasingly advocating for a more balanced approach that acknowledges the importance of followership. Organizations that value and invest in both leadership and followership development are better equipped to navigate the complexities of the modern workplace.

In conclusion, the traditional notion that everyone needs to be a leader is being challenged within the field of industrial psychology. Embracing the diversity of roles within an organization, including followership, can lead to a more harmonious and productive work environment. As the industrial landscape evolves, so too must our understanding of effective collaboration, recognizing that both leaders and followers play integral roles in achieving organizational success.

Useful Resources:

Goffee, R., & Jones, G. (2000). Why Should Anyone Be Led by You? Harvard Business Review.