The purpose of this essay is to compare and contrast servant leadership and followership and explain how one depends on the other to fortify an organization. The success of any organization is dependent on having both to succeed.
The definition for followership is “capability or willingness to follow a leader.” (Merriam-Webster page 435) The word follower is often associated with a negative connotation. However, effective followers are willing to put the progression of the cause before themselves, regardless of the role they occupy. They possess skills that complement their leadership, such as “respect for authority, a positive attitude, integrity, self-discipline and versatility, and flexibility.” (Bobby Payne 2011) An effective follower demonstrates active participation and creativity within the leadership process while contributing to the overall cohesion of an organization.
“The servant-leader is a servant first. It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first.” (Robert K. Greenleaf) In other words, they put the needs of their subordinates before their own, develop and aid their team members to perform to their highest potential.
An example would be a well-rounded Noncommissioned Officer (NCO) who lives by the principles of the NCO Creed. Servant leadership exemplifies characteristics such as humility, honesty, integrity, trustworthiness, empathy, and awareness. These qualities allow servant leaders to flip the “top of the pyramid” (Sneed, D. 2015) by coaching and teaching instead of dictating. They possess high-level decision-making skills to delegate tasks and foster a productive environment that utilizes strengths while identifying weaknesses for the better of the organization. “In a servant leadership culture, we learn by choice or example that if we want to be great, we have to serve others respectfully.” (Vern Dosch)
A significant difference between servant leadership and followership is the role they hold; while one leads by example, the other embraces their role to strengthen the unit. An organization does not function without leaders, and leaders can not lead without support. Both possess specific characteristics to work adequately and cohesively.
In conclusion, followership and servant leadership have their differences and similarities. They both are interdependent, and an organization cannot have one without the other. One cannot lead without followers, and one cannot follow without leaders. “Before you can lead, you have to know how to follow.” (David Sneed 2011)