The more I learn about leadership; I find myself thinking it is not for everyone and is that considered okay in today’s world. There is an extreme amount of responsibility when it comes to being a leader. As a leader you are influencing the decisions people make; in addition, you are driving towards organizational goals and guiding others. There have been countless studies conducted regarding who is a leader, what is a leader made of, what traits and strengths do they have, etc., but has there been any done in-depth on why someone would not want to be a leader but a follower instead.
My initial thought would classify those that did not want to be leaders as lackadaisical or non-engaged. However, after taking many leadership courses, what I have found is for there to be great leaders, there has to be situations and followers. Each item is equally vital in the leadership process. During our studies we learned about the leader-member exchange (LMX), the definition of LMX is “LMX says that leadership is a process that is centered on the interactions between leaders and follows. The relationship between leaders and followers is at the heart of the leadership process” (PSU WC, L8, 2019).
In LMX, we learned about in-groups and out-groups, also how these remind of us popular kids and not popular kids in school. All of this reminded me of a family friend that was in the same position for twenty-five years. Our friend worked in the correctional division for the state. He started when he was eighteen and retired when he was forty-three with twenty-five years of service. During this time, he was hired as a correctional officer, and when he retired, he was still a correctional officer. It slayed us that he never moved up the ladder; he never changed titles. He worked in the same prison doing the same job for so long. When we would ask him why not, he would always reply with why would he want do.
Thinking back to his responses and the stories that he had told of his time working the state, he most definitely was part of the out-group. The in-group were given the better assignments, they were given perks, whereas the out-group was given the duties nobody wanted or the problem prisoners. After years of being in the out-group, his opinion was he never wanted to be part of the in-group; he wanted to come to work do what he was required to do, and then go home. He wanted no additional responsibilities and that is what he envisioned the in-group was given. He developed no personal relationships with his leaders, as well his leaders never thought he had the potential to be a leader because of his interactions with them.
With the later studies of LMX, they found that leaders who developed relationships with their followers, often leading the employees to do well in advancements, they were supported and promoted more often and liked by other individuals (PSU WC, W8, 2019). LMX also found that those in the in-group were more committed and take on more work than what was in their job descriptions, the same being for out-groups only willing to do what was required (PSU WC, W8, 2019). What we have learned from both types of groups is that there will be people that only want to do what is required and will always be part of an out-group. It should be relevant to leaders to try and pull people from an out-group into an in-group, but you cannot force anyone to be more than what they want. Lastly, as a leader it is essential to realize that it is okay if they don’t want to be more than a follower; however, it does not give a leader the right to mistreat them.
Pennsylvania State University World Campus (2019). PSYCH 485, Lesson 08: leader-member exchange theory (LMX). Retrieved from https://psu.instructure.com/courses/2008237/modules/items/27074707