The Idea of a Follower: An Investigation of Implicit Followership Theories and Their Correlates
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Implicit followership theories (IFTs) are our subjective assumptions, or lay beliefs, about characteristics of followers. These beliefs can exert a powerful influence on workplace relationships between leaders and followers. This dissertation examines the correlates and structure of IFTs to provide further clarification as to why people have differing views of followers and the nature of these views. In Essay 1, I seek to understand why people diverge in their follower views by drawing on self-construal and trait activation theories to examine correlates of people’s follower views. Specifically, I conduct a cross-sectional study across two samples (students and employees) to investigate how people’s self-construals are differentially related to their IFTs, and whether situational factors interact to influence these relationships. I find that trait independent and interdependent self-construal is correlated with individuals’ negative and positive follower views, respectively. Moreover, for workers, performance pressure strengthened the positive relationship between independent self-construal and anti-prototypical IFTs. Thus, Essay 1 contributes insights as to how individuals’ traits and situational contexts individually and jointly relate to beliefs about followers. In Essay 2, I focus on explicating our ideal follower prototypes themselves—which, IFT theory argues, consist of configurations or patterns of follower traits—and whether different groups hold different prototypes due in part to how they have been socialized (i.e., work and leadership experience, socio-demographic background). In particular, I use latent profile analysis (LPA) to examine ideal IFT prototypes as patterns of traits within individuals and examine whether different groups hold different prototypes. I find that students and workers hold one of two, or three, prototypes, respectively (i.e., Dutiful and Productive, Passive, or Energetic but Overconfident). I also find that differences in socialization, specifically leadership and cultural region experiences, are related to differences in which ideal follower prototypes people tend to espouse. Finally, I also examine relationships between people’s ideal follower prototypes and their leadership and followership attitudes to provide initial understanding as to how ideal follower prototypes may influence individuals’ choices around adopting leadership or followership positions. Thus, Essay 2 contributes insights as to why and how people may hold different ideal IFT prototype views, as well as how these views are related to attitudes that potentially shape the trajectory of one’s career.
Cite this version of the work
Rochelle Evans (2022). The Idea of a Follower: An Investigation of Implicit Followership Theories and Their Correlates. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/18932