Now that the first Ergonomics module assignment is out of the way and I’ve made a reasonable start in planning how I’m going to tackle the second, my thoughts have turned to my main study task for this summer – that of working out what I want to do as a piece of empirical research for my dissertation. Time seems to be flying by and I only have until 6th October to submit my proposal. In between, normal working life will no doubt continue at its usual frenetic pace.
So as a way of helping me focus, I thought I’d write a little about one of the topics that I’m considering developing. It’s that of followership. In other words, what is it that makes an employee want to be part of their organisation, commit themselves to its cause and help to generate its success?
Much of the literature that I’ve read tends to approach understanding what makes an organisation successful purely from the viewpoint of leaders and managers. The popular management books you see in airport bookshops almost invariably assume that organisational success is largely attributable to the personality traits, knowledge, charisma and personal style of those in command. Sat on my desk at work is a copy of David Taylor’s “The Naked Leader” which is a typical offering from this genre.
In contrast, there are remarkably few studies or books on what makes a good follower (or “individual contributor” in the HR jargon).
I’m interested in this topic because the reasons why organisations succeed or fail can’t possibly be as simple as it all being down to the characteristics of individual leaders or managers. Work, after all, is a social activity and the success of an organisation depends upon everyone in it. So studying success from the viewpoint of followers rather than leaders and understanding what motivates them (me!) to contribute effectively to their workplace seems like it could be an interesting and useful line of inquiry.