Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Leadership Development Return on Investment: The Influence of Followership

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posted on 2021-11-10, 20:10 authored by Harris, Mark

In this research paper the role of followers in a leader's development is explored. The research findings show that leadership development remains a “slippery” subject and in spite of all the commitment made by organisations to develop leadership, the return on this investment, as viewed by followers is poor. Even though followers are the indirect recipients of leadership development and without them the role of leader does not exist, they are largely excluded from the process. Leaders see the important contribution they could have if provided the opportunity. Moreover, the development of followership is not evident even though both followers and leaders alike see the critical role of followership in a leader's success. The focus of leadership and followership is dominated by the leader's views. While not researching sensemaking in depth, this research presents evidence that the sensemaking of followers is accurate, insightful and meaningful. The research begins to explore the reasons for the low return on leadership development and highlights harmful aspects that can arise where care is not taken to consider a leader's maturity and situational context. The research shows how organisations are not actively encouraging authenticity and inner development of followers. Where this occurs it is largely a passive process and takes place through mimicry. Given the imbalance of resource allocation to be almost totally to the benefit of leadership, authenticity awareness and development is seen to be reserved for those that desire the title of leader. Finally, the research suggests that implementing followership development in a similar way to that which occurs in leadership would be positive although limiting. The current commoditisation of leadership results from the way mainstream thinking considers the leader's role and encourages a relational and dualistic view between the leader and follower. This view does not align to the everyday experience of people who share conversation, who create meaning together and who together help construct the leader role.


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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Masters Research Paper or Project



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Information Management


Lehmann, Hans