>Types of Followers and Enterprise Architecture

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A leader directs or guides and is in charge or commands others. Almost by definition, a leader must have followers. An enterprise architect leader influences and guides decision-making and direction of the enterprise business and IT planning and governance.

Harvard Business Review, December 2007, reports “there is no leader without at least one follower” and “increasingly, followers think of themselves as free agents, not as dependent underlings.

HBR provides an interesting typology of followers based on their engagement—there are five types:

  1. Isolates—“completely detached…scarcely aware of what’s going on around them. Moreover, they do not care about their leaders, know anything about them or respond to them in any obvious way. Their alienation…by knowing and doing nothing…[they] support the status quo…[they] can drag down their groups or organizations.”
  2. Bystanders—“observe but do not participate. These free riders deliberately stand aside and disengage, both from their leaders and from their groups or organizations. They may go along passively when its’ in their self-interest to do so, but they are not internally motivated to engage in an active way.”
  3. Participants—“are engaged in some way. Regardless of whether these followers clearly support their leaders and organizations or clearly oppose them, they care enough to invest some of what they have (time or money, for example) to try and make an impact.”
  4. Activists—“feel strongly one way or another about their leaders and organizations, and they act accordingly. These followers are eager, energetic, and engaged. They are heavily invested in people and process, so they work hard either on behalf of their leaders or to undermine and even unseat them.
  5. Diehards—“are prepared to go down for their cause-whether it’s an individual, an idea, or both. These followers may be deeply devoted to their leaders, or they may be strongly motivated to oust their leaders by any means necessary…they are willing, by definition, to endanger their own health and welfare in the service of their cause.”

Some lessons for leaders:

  • Follower engagement–“Followers who do something are nearly always preferred to followers who do nothing.”
  • Leadership support–“Good followers will actively support a leader who is good (effective and ethical) and will actively oppose a leader who is bad (ineffective and unethical.”
  • Organizational contribution—“Bad followers will do nothing whatsoever to contribute to the group or organization.”
  • Power and influence–“Followers act in their own self-interests, just as leaders do. And while they lack authority, at least in comparison with their superiors, followers do not lack power and influence.”

From a User-centric EA perspective, it is helpful to focus not only on leadership qualities, skills, and their development, but also on the types of followers and on their engagement, support, contribution, and power.

To lead an enterprise–establishing a target architecture, transition plan, and governance–the chief architect, must be able to develop a high energy, synergistic, A+ team of individuals that care, can perform, and are engaged and committed to drive effective change and organizational excellence.

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