The Difference between Leadership and Followership C/CMSgt Abraham Cheng Leadership and Followership are two very distinct concepts, but it is impossible to have one without the other. In CAP’s leadership text, it defines leadership as an art. Like all the other types of art, leadership takes practice and experience to be skilled at using it. This is where followership comes in. Followership is where you learn to be a leader, where you observe those placed above you, and most importantly, where you learn to follow.
Skills you learn as a follower are applied when you become a leader. All leaders are followers, but not all followers are leaders. Therefore, the difference between leadership and followership is the process of learning and gaining the skills required to lead others. Followership, as its name suggests, is learning to be a follower. Followership is the basic principle when it comes to leadership. A major part of followership is discipline. According to Merriam-Webster, discipline is training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character.
Followers, especially in CAP are in a state of training that molds their knowledge of the program and develop a person’s leadership ability. When a person is a follower, their main goal is to learn and develop themself. That way, when the person grows in status and becomes a leader, they will have learned the necessary skills to be able to lead other people effectively. A follower needs to learn from their leader’s mistakes so when they are in a leadership position, that mistake can be avoided from lessons learned in the past.
According to CAP’s leadership text, Leadership 2000 & Beyond, Vol. 1, leadership is defined as “the art of influencing and directing a group of people in manner that will win their obedience, confidence, respect, and loyal cooperation in achieving a common objective”. As it was mentioned above, an art is a skill that takes practice and experience to be able to use it properly and effectively. The art of leadership starts to develop the moment a person becomes a follower.
During a person’s time as a follower, they will constantly observe their leader and learn leadership lessons from that leader, so when that person becomes a leader, they will already have prior knowledge on being a leader and will therefore be a better leader. In order to be a good leader, a leader must have the necessary experience, skill, and motivation to bear responsibilities that a follower may not yet have. The qualities that have been developed though a cadet’s career must be maintained and perfected as a leader. Leaders must always lead from the front and act as a role model as followers learn from the example leaders set before them.
When people transition from the follower phrase into the leadership phrase, they still need to practice good followership. Leaders still have to follow other leaders; even people who are on the top like the president have to follow something such as the US constitution. Leadership and followership are two things that can be in operation at the same time for the same person. The bridge between the two is communication. With sufficient communication, the leader can tell his followers what he wants, and the followers can show him what they need him to do for them.
If you look deeply into both followership and leadership you will see that they are not that different, but more the same. You cannot lead if you do not know how to properly follow someone. You have to listen to what your leaders say, but you also must listen to the feedback your followers give in return. As a follower you learn the basic traits that are needed to be a leader. Once you have that down pat then you can step into your leadership role and begin teaching your followers. While you are teaching your followers you are also learning and making yourself a better leader. That is the difference between followership and leadership.