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Followers: The Five Types

In her book, “Followership,” Barbara Kellerman divides followers into five categories, based on their level of engagement.

March 17, 2009

The typology of followership, from “Followership: How Followers are Creating Change and Changing Leaders” by Barbara Kellerman, is published here with her permission.

Isolates

Isolates are completely detached. They don't care about their leaders, know anything about them or respond to them in any obvious way. Their alienation is, nevertheless, of consequence. By default – by knowing nothing and doing nothing – isolates strengthen leaders who already have the upper hand.

Bystanders

Bystanders observe but do not participate. They make a deliberate decision to stand aside, disengaging from their leaders and the group. This withdrawal is, in effect, a declaration of neutrality that amounts to tacit support for the status quo.

Participants

Participants are in some way engaged. They clearly favor or oppose their leaders and the groups and organizations of which they are a part. In either case, they care enough to invest some of what they have (time, for example) to have an impact.

Activists

Activists feel strongly about their leaders, and they act accordingly. They are eager, energetic and engaged. Because they are heavily invested in people and process, they work hard on behalf of their leaders or to undermine and even unseat them.

Diehards

Diehards are prepared to die for their cause, whether that is an individual, an idea or both. Diehards are deeply devoted to their leaders or, in contrast, ready to remove them from positions of power, authority and influence by any means necessary. Diehards are defined by their dedication, including their willingness to risk life and limb. Being a diehard is all-consuming. It is who you are. It determines what you do.