A follower’s guide

In the business world — and society at large — there are two groups of people: those who lead and those who follow. If you tend to associate the latter with the words passive or dependent, perhaps you should pick up The Courageous Follower: Standing Up to and for Our Leaders by Ira Chaleff. He refutes the “follower-as-weakling” concept, and shows the true scope of a follower’s responsibility and power.

Although how employees may effectively serve a company is the mainstay of the book, Chaleff maintains that while “followers and leaders both orbit around the purpose [of an organization], followers do not orbit around the leader.” He resists an oversimplified definition of office “followership” by examining five dimensions: the courage to assume responsibility, to serve well, to challenge leaders, to participate in transformation and to leave a leader or group.

Each is subsequently broken down into more digestible pieces. Readers will explore various theories of service, such as the obligation to object to and disobey immoral leadership policies and how and when to defend a leader. Chaleff begins each chapter with a correlating vignette of his personal experience as a management consultant to Fortune 500 companies and elected federal officials.

While the information is useful, there are no worksheets or self-assessment exercises. Thus, the book requires that readers be more proactive — ironically, a concept rarely associated with followers — in applying the philosophies to their career. Nonetheless, if you want to be a better follower, this book could be a good guide to keep on hand.

The Courageous Follower: Standing Up to and for Our Leaders (Berrett-Koehler, $24.95). To order, call 800-BOOKS-NOW! or visit www.BooksNow.com/Black Enterprise.

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