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Posted on February 10, 2020
Updated on November 5, 2020

Leadership & Followership

Being able to follow others is as important in an organisation as being able to lead.  In reality the same person can be a leader in one situation and a follower in another.  Whatever the situation is the organisation and the leader require strong followers.  Such people will be able to be creative, think for themselves, be cooperative, challenge and question ideas as well as be willing to do something they don’t agree with (as long as it is safe and legal and ethical).

The performance of the group or department needs to be as important to the individual as the individual’s own interests at work.  Sometimes people are so worried about what might happen if they disagreed, or “stuck their head above the parapet” that the best interest of the department and organisation are given less importance.

In these situations there is more likely to be an authoritarian style of leadership.  Employees in these situations are more likely to be in Compliant Mode, conforming rather than thinking for themselves.  When this happens the development of a “learning organisation” is prevented as this requires the opportunity to discuss and play with ideas in order to improve performance.

Krausz (1986), explores different leadership styles, the amount of energy used and the result obtained.  Whilst different situations may demand a different response the nature of the followers responses will vary accordingly.  For example, with the coercive leader the results will be low, but so too will be the energy of the leadership.  Coercive leaders tend to use the Criticising mode directing the transaction to the Over-Adapted mode on the OK Modes model (Mountain and Davidson 2011).

Leadership Style

Leadership Style, Amount of Energy Used and Results Obtained

Both followers and leaders need to be responsive to their own needs and to the needs of others.  Garcia (1991) calls this “responsivity”.  Internal responsivity is, according to Garcia, an intrapsychic process that involves being aware of discomfort and acting to experience relief.  External responsivity is a communication process involving others in meeting one’s own needs and in responding to others.  Effective communication occurs when external responsivity operations are initiated and responded to appropriately.


Krausz 2

Effective responses to someone else’s responsive transactions are those which address or mirror the transaction “I hear that you are angry with me for being late, and I’m sorry for having kept you waiting” is an effective transaction, even if the person was passive and did not tell you that that were angry at you, but had told someone else.  It meets the goal to initiate (to be active in the process) and also respects self and others.

Therefore there needs to be as much emphasis on good followership as there is on leadership.  Effective leaders value dissent as this ups the level and depth of analysis.  It keeps the leader and the organisation thinking about options and different ways to approach things. Of course this also depends on the ablity of the dissenter to get their message across in OK/OK ways and to do it in such a way that they are still aligning with the goals of the organisation and their own goals.  If dissenters are defined as dangerous then they will be dealt with by all the forces at the disposal of the leadership.

In TA we can see that the autocratic or controlling leader is looking for compliant followers.  In this way a symbiosis is created and the organisation will suffer both through the leadership and through the followership.  Contracts will be harder to establish and to maintain as they are built on I+U- (leader) and I-U+ (follower).  Both the autocratic leader and the follower in this situation, will relate to the world using rackets or (substitute feelings) as they are not autonomous.

Berne’s leadership styles also take into account followership – Responsible, Effective and Psychological.  It is not only the leader who influences the team and organisational effort.

The concept of autonomy can also be observed within competition, as it can be healthy or unhealthy.  Unhealthy competition is a sign that the individual or organisation is not autonomous.

Four types of unhealthy competition

King and Kokkelenberg outlined four types of unhealthy competition:

  1. Win-lose: involves the child competing with the parent for the Child position (i.e. competing for whose needs will be met)
  2. Right-wrong: involves competing for the Parent position (competing to define reality and make the rules).
  3. Better-worse: involves competing for the Child position but this time involving rivalry with a peer for the Child position in a symbiosis with a parent
  4. Top-bottom: competition for OKness based on the accumulation of resources.

All the above prevent autonomy.  Healthy competition on the other hand results in OKness for all.  This occurs when the internal decision is to be OK, and that OKness does not depend on winning or losing.

Where goals are autonomously defined and realistic for the organisation and the current situation then success is possible.


Garcia F.N. (1991), Responsivity,TAJ 21:4

Jacobs A. (1991), Autocracy: Groups, Organizations, Nations, and Players, TAJ 21:4

King L and Kokkelenberg L. (1985), Competitive Structures – Their Development and Diagnosis , TAJ 15:4

Krausz R (1986), Power and Leadership in Organizations, TAJ 16:2

Mountain A. and Davidson C (2011) Working Together: Organizational Transactional Analysis and Business Performance Gower Publishing