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Active Followership and Servant Leadership

The problem of effective human organization for task-realization purposes has long attracted the attention of researchers, managers, and government officials. People have been searching for the best practices that would lead to the most favorable outcome of the group activity. In this regard, the question of effective administration is at the forefront of most management-related discussions. Researchers agree that organizations should seek to cultivate active followership and servant leadership styles in subordinates (Gobble, 2017; Gandolfi & Stone, 2018). It is believed that such a strategy would help the former to achieve the most successful result possible. Therefore, although active fellowship and servant leadership concepts are intrinsically different, they also complement each other.

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Active followership represents the behavior of a member – who does not hold the leadership position in the given context – diametrically different from passive subordination. Such people are enthusiastic, conscious, and self-reliant when they need to achieve a goal set by an organization or a group (Davis, 2017). They provide help to colleagues and think first about the common good rather than about personal benefits. Moreover, effective followers actively communicate with leaders and have the courage to challenge the latter if the orders contradict the final goals of the company or a group.

On the other hand, servant leadership is a concept that describes the behavior of those people who have the means and right to exert authority. Such a manager prioritizes the needs and interests of others before his/her own (Reed, 2016). Moreover, servant leader does not seek power per se, but rather he/she understands that authority is the instrument to increase the well-being of the group. Therefore, the most common characteristics that servant managers possess include the ability to listen to subordinates, high empathy, using persuasion rather than coercion, commitment to followers’ personal growth, and seeking to build community (Davis, 2017).

In summary, servant leadership is a type of manager behavior that can be shortly defined as “followers’ needs are first,” whereas active followership describes the self-driven effective performance of the subordinates. Although different in nature, both concepts share similar important qualities of personal responsibility and pursuit of common well-being. Moreover, the conducted analysis suggests that they are not mutually exclusive but rather complement each other for a better outcome. In other words, the performance of the group managed by servant leaders would increase significantly if subordinates are active.


Davis, N. (2017). Review of followership theory and servant leadership theory: Understanding how servant leadership informs followership. In C.J. Davis (Eds.), Servant Leadership and Followership (pp. 207-223). Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

Gandolfi, F., & Stone, S. (2018). Leadership, leadership styles, and servant leadership. Journal of Management Research, 18(4), 261-269.

Gobble, M. M. (2017). The value of followership. Research-Technology Management, 60(4), 59-63.

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Reed, L. (2016). Servant leadership, followership, and organizational citizenship behaviors in 9-1-1 emergency communications centers: Implications of a national study. Servant Leadership: Theory & Practice, 2(1), 71-94.

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