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Followership-Leadership Interaction in Healthcare


This paper aims to identify patterns of followership styles and their relation to leadership styles, with a particular emphasis on the healthcare sector. The analysis is based on a review of scholarly articles on the interaction between followership and leadership in healthcare. The results reveal that there are different forms of followership types, with the primary model encompassing “alienated,” “passive,” “conformist,” and “exemplary” followers. Further, the results show that the most prevalent leadership styles are the thought, courageous, inspirational, and servant leaders. Followership and leadership need to interact positively for the benefit of healthcare administration for the ultimate delivery of quality services.

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Leaders make decisions within organizations and cause others to support and implement the resolutions. Leaders utilize rewards, binding forces, and interpretations of culture to obtain the collaboration of others. Leadership in its highest form develops a common understanding with followers and changes their primary ways of thinking. This paper seeks to create a comprehensive list of desirable followership styles and traits. It also highlights the leadership styles and qualities specific to the healthcare administration field and role. The description further involves a discussion of the importance of each of the styles and traits to success, especially in the healthcare administration field and role. Principally, followership and leadership are important in healthcare since they facilitate the delivery of quality and safe services to patients.

Relationship between Followership and Leadership Styles and Their Traits

Followership is the capacity for subjects to meritoriously obey instructions and back the determination of a leader to make the best use of a structured organization. Stewart (2019) states that followership does not depict any form of negativity, but people generally associate it with undesirable and patronizing words like weak, passive, and compliant. Leadership entails the power to influence people in the desired direction. A leader has to exercise the mandate through different ways that define their role in ensuring the organization attains the intended objectives.

Followership has further been described into different variations such as “bystanders”, “isolates”, “activists”, “participants”, and “diehard” or ‘resource’, ‘partner’, ‘implementer’, and ‘individualistic’ (Bjugstad et al., 2006). However, according to Stewart (2019), the main typology of followership involves the ‘alienated’ follower who is independent, proficient, and a critical thinker. Secondly, the “passive” follower is judged to lack ambition and novelty and is therefore inclined to be highly reliant and under-enthusiastic in performing their mandate (Gardam, 2020). Thirdly, the “conformist” follower seeks to satisfy the leader’s desires by praising the ruler’s decisions and actively implementing them. However, they do not analytically participate in formulating the decisions or their mode of implementation. Lastly, “exemplary” followers have the potency to question the leadership, and they are innovative and independent; hence highly critical to the success of any organization (Bjugstad et al., 2006; Thornton, 2013). They can easily interact with other associates and present themselves reliably to all they associate with.

Leadership is perceived to be of more excellent value than followership because it effectively coordinates activities to accomplish objectives successfully. Varpio and Teunissen (2020) state that in rewarding leaders, followers are generally forgotten despite their active role in making the success. That’s why there has been little consideration for followership compared to leadership. In general, people feel uncomfortable using the term ‘followers’ hence the low level of research on the topic. Therefore, effective leadership ought to let lose the optimum potential of the followers to propel them to reach greater heights and go farther than they formerly thought (Gnambs, 2017). Such leadership is founded on the belief that people, groups, and even countries hold undiscovered capacities and unexploited wealth.

In general, influential leaders can be summed up into four main types. First, thought leaders seek to tie together the power of thinking to realize change by actively stretching the followers to visualize new potentials. Second, courageous leaders come out strongly to chase their vision irrespective of any risks or opposition. They strongly believe in their purpose/mission, values, and long-term goals/vision. Third, servant leaders come out as individuals who tend to care for others sincerely. According to Bjugstad et al. (2006), they manifest this character by removing the blockades and impediments that hold others from attaining their unlimited potential. They make every effort to craft an environment where their followers can do their finest work leading to better results.

Finally, inspirational leaders are characterized by their prospect to support change through the supremacy of their zealous pledge to accepted wisdom and ideals. They can engage their gift and use the power of words to stir up confidence and make stronger convictions that inspire others to act. They have positive attitudes that build solid emotional relations with people. In research by Varpio & Teunissen (2020), it is stated that inspirational leaders prefer to use words such as freedom, justice, pride, honor, respect, and love that bring people together and inspire hope. Their encouraging conduct shapes the self-confidence of their followers and provokes their unswerving commitment. Inspirational leaders can easily explain the importance of their preferred course of action in urgent situations and detail the actionable steps people need to embrace.

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Followership and Leadership Expectations in Healthcare Administration

Leadership is a crucial element in attaining organizational objectives, particularly in healthcare. Healthcare administration involves various operations through different people, systems, and other resources. Garcia (2017) argues that administrations across different sectors call for effective leadership to attain the preferred result of high-quality and safe care. Skilled leadership inspires productivity, quality care, innovation, and the creation of a culture in which the followers tend to be more supported, empowered, and motivated. The outstanding traits of followership in healthcare administration are the ‘alienated’ follower and servant leadership. The preference for the alienated follower is supported by their capacity to act independently and proficiently and be critical in analyzing situations. Such attributes will help the follower to ensure they provide the best possible care to the patients. Servant leadership is preferred because it is founded on the desire to care for others and mainly involves the patients requiring critical care.

The present-day healthcare environment presents complex challenges, such as globalization, shifting population demographics, tricky economic considerations, uneven government policies, and informational and medical technology changes. The difficulties require the healthcare administration to implement constant reforms due to the interaction of factors both within and out of its control. The situation further calls for effective leadership and followership. Varpio & Teunissen (2020) state that the players in the medical realm must balance their interests in order to produce a leader or follower distinctiveness from moment to moment. Such strewn leadership practices lead to reduced errors, infection, and mortality; better patient experience; improved staff morale and abridged staff absenteeism and job-related stress (Blanken, 2021; Allen et al., 2018). Through effective leadership, the followers, including those in non-formal positions, such as medical trainees, get to learn essential qualities required of them all through their careers and cultivate a lead character.

Furthermore, leadership in healthcare is informed by evidence-based practices (EBP) that support change and upgraded patient outcomes. It is expected that followership and leadership in healthcare will involve the creation of multi-disciplinary teams that provide better healthcare delivery systems (Stewart, 2019). In light of the constant changes in healthcare, practitioners are expected to learn new competencies that are needed in transforming healthcare delivery. Competent and compassionate leadership can be attained by simply certifying that the roles are performed well, and upcoming practitioners are supported in growing their careers. Better leadership can be facilitated by finding opportunities that enhance the clinical skills and general knowledge of people involved in providing healthcare services. Schattke and Marion-Jetten (2021) indicate that such can be facilitated through basic training provided by arranging for workshops and seminars, using training manuals, or deploying online training as part of showing the commitment to the profession across the organizational, local, and international settings.


The present-day operating environment constantly evolves, requiring people to adjust to the speed. Organizations need to cultivate appropriate followership and leadership cultures to be able to survive and be successful in the current difficult times. Even as followership has not been widely studied due to its inferiority to leadership, it is required that organizations have the best followers who will be instrumental in driving success. Different models of followership can be adopted, particularly the “alienated,” “passive,” “conformist,” and “exemplary” followers. Leadership has attracted wide admiration because it carries the prospect of driving an organization to the ultimate success in achieving the outlined goals and objectives. Alienated followers and servant leadership are preferred in healthcare administration. The respective followership and leadership styles are critical in healthcare administration in ensuring that the many followers and the intricate systems and processes are effectively managed for the ultimate goal of providing quality and safe care for patients. Practicing successful healthcare administration requires a good balance between followers and leaders in enabling better healthcare in the social order.


Allen, J., Jones, D., & Currey, J. (2018). Clinician and manager perceptions of factors leading to ward patient clinical deterioration. Australian Critical Care, 31(6), 369–375. Web.

Bjugstad, K., Thach, E. C., Thompson, K. J., & Morris, A. (2006). A fresh look at followership: A model for matching followership and leadership styles. Journal of Behavioral and Applied Management. Web.

Blanken, R. F. (2021). Board management style: What’s your leadership type? Associations Now. Web.

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Garcia, M. (2017). Followers’ perspective does matter! (follow up to you have what? Personality! Traits that predict leadership styles for elementary principals). Journal of Psychology & Psychotherapy, 07(04). Web.

Gardam, M. (2020). Physician experience at the leading edge of the digital healthcare transformation. Healthcare Quarterly, 23(SP), 4–7. Web.

Gnambs, T. (2017). Opinion leadership types or continuous opinion leadership traits? International Journal of Psychology, 54(1), 88–92. Web.

Schattke, K., & Marion-Jetten, A. S. (2021). Distinguishing the explicit power motives. Zeitschrift Für Psychologie. Web.

Stewart, C. (2019). Coexisting values in healthcare and the leadership practices that were found to inspire followership among healthcare practitioners. Journal of Values-Based Leadership. Web.

Thornton, P.B. (2013). Four types of leaders. Training. Web.

Varpio, L., & Teunissen, P. (2020). Leadership in interprofessional healthcare teams: Empowering knotworking with followership. Medical Teacher, 43(1), 32–37. Web.

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