The two philosophies, followership and servant leadership, are discussed in the context of soldier development. However, these leadership styles are not exclusive to the army and applicable in business as well. When we compare and contrast followership and servant leadership we can better appreciate the relationship between the styles.  

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In business, we often hear of leadership and read articles that address leadership style. It is much less often than we hear about followership. Followership is what the Ivey Business Journal has called “the other side of leadership.” It’s a person’s ability to follow the leader, so-to-speak. It’s the ability to take direction, be a team member, and describes their overall willingness to follow a leader. Although there are very few company accolades for superior followership, followers are vital in reaching business objectives. In many cases, people working in an organization will have both a traditional leadership role while also being a follower. They follow the direction of their superior while being a leader to their team members.

Servant Leadership  

Coined in 1970 by Robert K. Greenlead, the phrase servant leadership is a leadership philosophy that focuses on how a leader interacts with others, specifically their subordinates. It is unlike many traditional leadership styles. A servant as a leader will focus on putting employee development and needs first. It is an approach that is focused on long term objectives and relationships. In some ways, it’s like a role-reversal. The leader works to serve the employees, rather than the employees serving the leader. A good servant leader is altruistic. Subservant leaders prioritize employee needs and well-being. By doing so, employee performance increases and company objectives are met or exceeded.    

Compare and Contrast 

When we compare and contrast followership and servant leadership, we can see there are many similarities. Followers and servant leaders both value commitment, servitude, enthusiasm, flexibility, and versatility. There is also a great detail of trust and mutual respect. Followers trust their leader’s guidance and respect their direction, and servant leaders trust their followers’ abilities and respect them as a person. Servant leadership and followership are the same in that both would be willing to jump in and help with a project, regardless of their organizational position. They also appreciate long term relationships and their actions serve to nurture them. A servant leader serves their followers, and followers serve their leader.   

The main difference between followership and servant leadership is the amount of responsibility and demand. A servant leader as a manager or superior will often have more job responsibilities than their followers, and more of the organizational success will rest on their shoulders. In addition to serving their team, they have their own targets, tasks, and responsibilities to look after. As Aristotle once said, “He who cannot be a good follower, cannot be a good leader.” It is difficult to say whether one is better than the other, as they are complimentary. Good servant leaders are guiding followers to be the leaders of tomorrow.


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