Allen Jr.'s Reviews > The Courageous Follower: Standing Up to and for Our Leaders

The Courageous Follower by Ira Chaleff
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bookshelves: followership

In my deep interest on the topic of followership, I finally was able to read Ira Chaleff's "The Courageous Follower." I very much appreciated the respect and value that he ascribes to the follower role. His emphasis on uniting both leader and follower roles around a common purpose is refreshing and challenging; how much of my own involvement is guided by my adherence to our organization's purpose?

Although initially excited at the content in the first few chapters, I found that my interest and enthusiasm waned towards the latter half of the book. The pattern of offering lists of recommended questions or wordings to use in dialogue as part of nearly every subsection became a bit ponderous and overwhelming. I feel like I would need to carry a copy of this book and a flowchart in order to make appropriate use of his recommendations for interaction in a given situation. A few especially poignant conversation points for each chapter or theme would have had more impact in shaping my perspective and responses.

Despite so intensely emphasizing the significant factor of human interaction--the leader-follower dynamic founded upon truth, honesty, vulnerability, confrontation, morality and the like--I came away feeling this it was all a bit depersonalized. Could I just program a robot to utter Chaleff's recommended statements and questions? There is an extreme paucity of real-life/realistic or historical examples or case studies, which makes the content feel a bit too theoretical and idealized.

I'm not convinced that, in the development of followership as a topic for conversation and for growth, that labels and categories are what's needed. Chaleff offers us "courageous followership," repeatedly stating that, "Courageous followers [do this]..." almost as if it's a badge to wear or a certificate to qualify for. Is courage actually at the center of what we need in order to follow well? At the core, we need to do well in our role...regardless of our style or personality. In addition to "courageous follower," Chaleff also offers us Partner, Implementer, and others...more labels and categories. Maybe these are helpful, concrete, even motivational for some, but I think that a simple exploration of helpful perspective and actions would pay us richer dividends than determining whether I am a Bystander (Kellerman), Implementer (Chaleff), Star (Kelley), Follower First (Ricketson), or First Follower (Sweet).

I think we have grown beyond the need to shape corporate culture and business perspectives. What we need in the realm of followership is addressing real individuals where they're at by providing encouragement and guidance (rather than paradigms) to serve well and "grow forward" in their role as follower.

However, taking "The Courageous Follower" for what it is, it is a worthwhile read...a gem of reasonable quality in a field that as yet feels sometimes barren. Recommended, but wondering if we can push beyond the idea of courage, beyond the labels, and really encourage one another to follow well?
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
September 1, 2013 – Finished Reading
September 6, 2013 – Shelved
August 13, 2015 – Shelved as: followership

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