How Leaders, Followers & Power Work Together (or Not!)

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This week’s guest post is from Dustin J. Knutson. He holds a Doctorate in Strategic Leadership from Regent University (VA) and lives and works with his wife and two daughters as an expatriate in the Middle East.


What kind of leader are you?

What kind of power do you have and how do you use it to influence?

What leadership environment do you create for others?

Understanding the answers to these three simple questions will equip you to lead more knowledgeably and more effectively!

What Kind of Leader Are You?
“Some people are leaders because of their formal position in an organization, whereas others are leaders because of the way other group members respond to them. These two forms of leadership are called assigned leadership and emergent leadership” (Northouse).

What Kind of Power Do You Have?
“Position power is the power a person derives from a particular office or rank in a formal organizational system. It is the influence capacity a leader derives from having higher status than the followers… Personal power is the influence capacity a person derives from being seen by followers as likable and knowledgeable” (Northouse).

What Kind of Leadership Environment Do You Create?
As you combine the two ideas above, your leadership type and power dynamic blend to create different working environments for followers. Think of these as the three different environments that you can create for others to work in.

  1. Compliant but Not Necessarily Motivated
    The first environment is where assigned leaders only utilize position power and thus create compliant followers. Followers are not necessarily motivated but do what they are told because of rank and status or the threat of rewards or punishment. Followers led by these types of leaders will typically only do the bare minimum. Morale can be low.
  2. Motivated by Charisma
    The second environment is where emergent leaders exhibit personal power to persuade followers to accomplish a task without any formal authority. Followers are typically motivated by the leader’s vision and contagious qualities. Individuals feel drawn to follow emergent leaders regardless of their rank or status. Assigned leaders who use only position power may feel threatened by the informal leadership of emergent leaders; however, these emergent leaders inspire innovation, teamwork, and positive corporate culture.
  3. Motivated and Committed
    The third environment is where assigned leaders are also emergent leaders. These leaders selective use position power only when needed or when personal power isn’t enough. They rely on their personal power to create a motivated following and are most effective when followers are asked or persuaded to act rather than told what to do. Followers of these leaders typically overachieve more often. They act both out of respect for the position of authority of their leader and because they feel led rather than managed.

Who would you name in your organization that you would consider an assigned leaders but not an emergent leader? Vice versa? Both? Consider why, and then examine those qualities in yourself.

What category would your followers place you in?

Are you leading and following as effectively as you could be? Why?

If you’d like to increase your personal power and emergent leadership, try courageously asking your followers for honest feedback. Ask them to provide you with their insights about leadership styles or traits they prefer, or would like to see more of in you. Then consider the feedback, communicate the changes you’re willing and committed to make, follow through, and follow up. While difficult, you’ll be glad you did. You’ll likely become more influential and powerful as a result – but for all the right reasons!


Head ShotJeff Suderman is a futurist, professor and consultant who works in the field of organizational development. He works with clients to improve culture, leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational future-readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman, E-mail:


Northouse, P. (2007). Leadership: theory and practice. Sage Publications: Thousand Oaks, CA.

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