Followership:Followership and leadership are separate but com- plementary roles.

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Followership:Followership and leadership are separate but com- plementary roles.

Followership:Followership and leadership are separate but com- plementary roles.
Followership:Followership and leadership are separate but com- plementary roles.

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Followership and leadership are separate but com- plementary roles. The roles are also reciprocal: without followers, one cannot be a leader. One also cannot be a follower without having a leader (Lyons, 2002).

It is as important to be an effective follower as it is to be an effective leader. In fact, most of us are followers: members of a team, attendees at a meeting, staff of a nursing care unit, and so forth.

Followership Defined Followership is not a passive role. On the contrary, the most valuable follower is a skilled, self-directed professional, one who participates actively in deter- mining the group’s direction, invests his or her time and energy in the work of the group, thinks criti- cally, and advocates for new ideas (Grossman & Valiga, 2000).

Imagine working on a patient care unit where all staff members, from the unit secretary to the assistant nurse manager, willingly take on extra tasks without being asked (Spreitzer & Quinn, 2001), come back early from coffee breaks if they are needed, complete their charting on time, support ways to improve patient care, and are proud of the high-quality care they provide. Wouldn’t it be won- derful to be a part of that team?

Becoming a Better Follower There are a number of things you can do to become a better follower:

■ If you discover a problem, inform your team leader or manager right away.

■ Even better, include a suggestion for solving the problem in your report.

■ Freely invest your interest and energy in your work.

■ Be supportive of new ideas and new directions suggested by others.

■ When you disagree, explain why. ■ Listen carefully and reflect on what your leader

or manager says. ■ Continue to learn as much as you can about

your specialty area. ■ Share what you learn.

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12 unit 1 ■ Professional Considerations

Being an effective follower not only will make you a more valuable employee but will also increase the meaning and satisfaction that you get from your work.

Managing Up Most team leaders and nurse managers respond positively to having staff who are good followers. Occasionally, you will encounter a poor leader or manager who can confuse, frustrate, and even dis- tress you. Here are a few suggestions for handling this:

■ Avoid adopting the ineffective behaviors of this individual.

■ Continue to do your best work and to contribute leadership to the group.

■ If the situation worsens, enlist the support of others on your team to seek a remedy; do not try to do this alone as a new graduate.

■ If the situation becomes intolerable, consider the option of transferring to another unit or seeking another position (Deutschman, 2005; Korn, 2004).

There is still more a good follower can do. This is called managing up. Managing up is defined as “the process of consciously working with your boss to obtain the best possible results for you, your boss, and your organization” (Zuber & James quoted by Turk, 2007, p. 21). This is not a scheme to mani- pulate your manager or to get more rewards than you have earned. Instead, it is a guide for better understanding your manager, what he or she expects of you, and what your manager’s own needs might be.

Every manager has areas of strength and weak- ness. A good follower recognizes these and helps the manager capitalize on areas of strength and compensate for areas of weakness. For example, if your nurse manager is slow completing quality improvement reports, you can offer to help get them done. On the other hand, if your nurse manager seems to be especially skilled in defusing

conflicts between attending physicians and nursing staff, you can observe how he handles these situa- tions and ask him how he does it. Remember that your manager is human, a person with as many needs, concerns, distractions, and ambitions as anyone else. This will help you keep your expecta- tions of your manager realistic and reduce the dis- tance between you and your manager.

There are several other ways in which to manage up. U.S. Army General and former Secretary of State Colin Powell said, “You can’t make good deci- sions unless you have good information” (Powell, 2012, p. 42). Keep your manager informed. No one likes to be surprised, least of all a manager who finds that you have known about a problem (a nursing assistant who is spending too much time in the staff lounge, for example) and not brought it to her attention until it became critical. When you do bring a problem to your manager’s attention, try to have a solution to offer. This is not always possible, but when it is, it will be very much appreciated.

Finally, show your appreciation whenever pos- sible (Bing, 2010). Show respect for your manager’s authority and appreciation for what your manager does for the staff of your unit. Let others know of your appreciation, particularly those to whom your manager must answer.