Leadership without Followership
What good is a leader who has no one willing to follow them? I have been in the Marine Corps for 16 years and started off enlisted as a 21-year-old Private First Class and find myself now a Warrant Officer. I have experienced many different types of leaders: the good, the bad, and the really bad. Through my time in the Marine Corps, I have found that I could never specifically define leadership, and I now see that is for a reason. Northouse identifies the four components of leadership as “(1) Leadership is a process, (2) Leadership involves influence, (3) Leadership occurs in groups, and (4) Leadership involves common goals” (pg. 6).
I think the biggest factor that stands out to me and not only my experience as a follower, but also my experience as a leader, is “Leadership involves influence”. Northouse explains how influence is “being concerned with how the leader affects followers and that without influence, leadership does not exist” (pg. 6.). The Marine Corps is unique in that Marines are expected to obey all lawful orders without question, but I have found some fail to truly understand the relationship between themselves and their subordinates (followers). I think a lot of this has to do with having an understanding of the situation in which they are expected to bark out orders and Marines follow without hesitation compared to when we are in a garrison environment that is not necessarily high tempo, life or death situations that is experienced in combat deployments.
Lesson one commentary discusses “The Leader, The Follower, and The Situation”, and identifies the situation as an important aspect to the leadership process (Penn State 2019). I think Marines are quick to go high and to the right, I myself did as a young Corporal and Sergeant trying to figure out my own leadership style. But I quickly learned that this is not the best answer. As I continued to grow as a leader and earn higher ranks, I learned that I cannot necessarily talk to every Marine the same way, and they are all receptive to different styles of communication. I experienced leaders who basically didn’t want to hear anything from the senior enlisted and they knew what was best, and I quickly watched platoons and battalion morale drop and become a situation in which no one wanted to be at work, and performance dropped. Not a single person wanted those people as their leaders.
In describing leadership, Northouse also discusses Trait Versus Process Leadership in which the idea of people possessing certain natural characteristics that are used to identify leaders, and the Marine Corps also has these. Every Marine is taught the 14 leadership traits, and while there are leaders who possess some or all of these traits, it still does not make them an effective leader. If you lack the ability to influence your followers and create a successful working environment, then you are not doing leadership. You are simply filling a billet, as there is no leadership without followership.
Northouse, P. G. (2016). Leadership: Theory and Practice. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications
Williams, J.R. (n.d.). Lesson 1 Commentary: Introduction to Leadership. Retrieved 16 May 2019 from https://psu.instructure.com/courses/1985970/modules/items/2658941