Doctoral Proposal Submitted in Partial Fulfillment
of the Requirements for the Degree of
Doctor of Business Administration
Traditionally, the staff of professional development programs devote little time and attention to developing effective follower skills because most organizational leaders assume employees know how to follow. Followership skills are the foundation of leadership. The problem addressed in this study is the lack of knowledge midlevel hospitality managers displayed concerning the importance of the followership traits that translate to good leadership skills. The purpose of the qualitative phenomenological study was to explore the phenomenon of followership traits that translate to good leadership skills. The central research questions were designed to explore the lived experiences and informed perceptions of midlevel managers in the hospitality industry regarding the followership traits that translate to leadership skills. The lived experiences of midlevel hospitality managers relating to leadership and followership traits were the conceptual framework of the study. The interview question data were analyzed using Moustakas’ modified van Kaam methodology. The findings indicated (a) an affiliation exists between organizational success and followers learning their positions, displaying initiative by learning, and providing support for the leaders; (b) core competencies and skills of followers are interpersonal skills; and (c) the relationship between followers and leaders was based on trust, teamwork and the role of followers and leaders are intertwined. The study contributes to positive social change by providing deeper understanding of the phenomenon of followership, which might provide insights into the improvement of methods to gain understanding of the relationship between leader and follower, which will improve organizational success.
Followership as Perceived by Leaders in the Hospitality Industry
James H. Schindler
MS, Troy State University, 1989
BS, University of South Alabama, 1977
Doctoral Proposal Submitted in Partial Fulfillment
of the Requirements for the Degree of
Doctor of Business Administration
I could not have completed this research effort without encouragement and the assistance of numerous supporters. I dedicate this doctoral study to those individuals. First, Dr. Richard Gray, Ph.D. who inspired me to continue my education and to believe in my capabilities; his determination and scholarly acumen is a standard to match. Additionally, I dedicate this doctoral study to the memory of my parents, Dr. Louis E. Schindler, DVM and Angeline Hays Schindler, also to, William (Bill) Duke, LtCol, USAF, (retired) a friend and mentor, whose efforts on my behalf and guidance have helped me succeed personally and professionally.
I acknowledge the love and support of my wife, Ruthann Schindler and thank her for the patience and tolerance that have sustained me as I worked to complete this journey. I certainly appreciate Dr. Charlene Dunfee, my doctoral study chair, and acknowledge and thank her for guidance and encouragement throughout this process and for her critique and input that improved the final product. I am also very appreciative of friends and colleagues who provided encouragement. I am also especially grateful for and acknowledge the enlightening contribution of the research participants who allowed me to share their experiences, without whom this study would not have been possible.
A Review of the Professional and Academic Literature 19
Hospitality Management 46
Transition and Summary 49
Section 2: The Project 50
Purpose Statement 50
Role of the Researcher 51
Research Method and Design 52
Research Design 54
Population and Sampling 54
Data Collection 55
Data Collection Technique 56
Data Organization Techniques 56
Data Analysis Technique 56
Reliability and Validity 57
Transition and Summary 57
Section 3: Application to Professional Practice and Implications for Change 59
Overview of Study 59
Presentation of the Findings 62
Outcomes That Address Research Question 1: Participants’ Experience 62
Conclusions That Address Research Question 1 72
Outcomes That Address Research Question 2: Participants’ Perception 73
Conclusions That Address Research Question 2 82
Emerging Themes 83
Applications to Professional Practice 85
Implications for Social Change 86
Recommendations for Action 88
Recommendations for Further Study 89
Summary and Study Conclusions 91
Appendix A: Letter of Invitation 108
Appendix B: Informed Consent 109
Appendix C: Interview Questions 111
Curriculum Vitae 112
List of Tables
Section 1: Foundation of the Study
Both good leaders and good followers exhibit some of the same characteristics (Kelley, 2008). Both think for themselves, both are active in the leadership process, and both exhibit positive energy. Individuals who display these characteristics are often referred to as “leaders in disguise” (Kelley, 2008, p. 9). The current study involved developing a thematic awareness of specific followership traits that translate into good leadership skills. The lack of clear followership trait analysis has negatively constrained professional development programs that include a reliance only on leadership skills (Agho, 2009).
Background of the Problem
Traditionally, the staff of professional development programs devote little time and attention to developing effective follower skills because most organizational leaders erroneously assume that employees know how to follow (Agho, 2009). An understanding of followership characteristics will enable leaders to “develop other great leaders one follower at a time” (Adair, 2008, p. 137). Followership skills are part of leadership skills (Adair, 2008), and followership skills are the foundation of leadership. To identify followers with good followership skills, who are potentially good leaders it is necessary to capitalize on the characteristics and skills within the leadership process (Adair, 2008).
Bjugstad, Thach, Thompson, and Morris (2006) noted the negative connotation of the term followership is an explanation for the lack of research on the topic of followership. Followership is often associated with negative terms such as “passive, weak, and conforming” (Bjugstad et al., 2006, p. 304). However, the characteristics good followers exhibit, such as being able to think for themselves, being independent, having positive energy, and being innovative, are the same characteristics expected from good leaders (Kelley, 2008). In this study, I attempted to gain understanding of the phenomenon of followership as it relates to the participants. Midlevel managers in the hospitality industry in the southeastern United States along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico comprised the participant sample in the study for two reasons. First, the managers were more likely to have experienced the phenomenon of followership during the situations caused by hurricanes Katrina and Ivan and the subsequent rebuilding of economies and properties (Moss, Ryan, & Moss, 2008; Smith, 2010). The second reason for selecting midlevel managers in the hospitality industry along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico was hospitality is a relatively new academic discipline (Ottenbacher, Harrington, & Parsa, 2009) and has had limited exposure to research.
Kellerman (2007) noted good leadership is the subject of courses, workshops, books, and articles, but the limited research and writing on subordinates contains explanations of followers’ behaviors in terms of leaders’ development rather than followers’ development. Followership is the “ability to effectively follow the directives and support the efforts of a leader to maximize a structured organization” (Bjugstad et al., 2006, p. 306). Most scholarly books in print on the subject are about good leadership; “the ratio of leadership to followership books was 120:1” (Bjugstad et al., 2006, p. 306). The lack of scholarly work has frequently caused leaders to overlook followership as a necessary part of a successful organization (Bearden, 2008). The current study involved demonstrating the followership characteristics that may translate to good leadership.
An increased focus on the characteristics of followership may lead to a greater understanding of the leadership process and the characteristics of leaders that will result in better organizational performance (Bearden, 2008). Increasing awareness of followership processes in organizational leaders may lead to improved leadership and improved organizational performance (Dixon, 2009). Improved leadership is the direct result of improved followership. Individuals within an organization transition between the role of follower and the role of leader continually, and the success of organizations depends upon performance in both roles (Bearden, 2008; Dixon, 2009). Kelley (2008) noted followership and leadership are “complementary, not competitive paths to organizational contribution. . . . We must have great leaders and great followers” (p. 41). The current study involved identifying specific followership traits that translate directly to leadership skills.
If organizational members are more aware of followership processes, they will be prepared to participate in and support the leadership of their organization (Dixon & Westbrook, 2003). The general problem is the failure to identify followership traits that translate to leadership skills has resulted in a lack of advancement into leadership positions for followers (Adair, 2008; Agho, 2009; Blanchard, Wellbourne, Gilmore, & Bullock, 2009). Succession plans exist for senior positions and do not include the leadership potential of middle management (Brant, Dooley, & Iman, 2008). A commitment to professional development of managers with high potential results in commitment, trust, and improved retention (Brant et al., 2008). The specific focus of the study was to explore the followership traits that translate to good leader traits. An investigation of leaders employing a phenomenological methodology was necessary. The study involved examining the lived experiences and informed perceptions of 20 midlevel hospitality managers located in the southeastern United States along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico to provide thematic awareness of the phenomenon of followership characteristics that translate to good leadership skills.
The purpose of the qualitative phenomenological study was to explore the phenomenon of followership characteristics that translate to good leadership skills. In a phenomenological study, the researcher “describes the meaning of the lived experiences for several individuals about a concept of the phenomenon” (Creswell, 2007, p. 51). The phenomenological research design was appropriate to the qualitative methodology because the method enabled the researcher to gain access to the respondents’ lived experiences by conducting in-depth interviews. The focus of the study was exploring the lived experiences and the informed perceptions of a purposeful sample of 20 midlevel managers from the hospitality industry. For the purpose of the study, midlevel managers were the managers below the top manager and above the first level supervisory positions (Wooldridge, Schmid, & Floyd, 2008). The specific participant population of the study was 20 midlevel managers from the hospitality industry along the Gulf Coast. The participants were in the southeastern United States along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. The population was limited to midlevel hospitality managers in organizations with more than 100 and less than 400 employees. The data from the study might contribute to social change by expanding the knowledge of leadership from a followership perspective by exploring insights into how midlevel managers in the hospitality industry perceive followership. The results of the study contribute to business profitability by increasing internal recruiting and succession planning.
Nature of the Study
The current qualitative phenomenological study involved employing semistructured interviews to explore the participants’ lived and perceived experiences with the phenomenon of followership traits that translate to good leadership. The qualitative phenomenological research method and design were appropriate for the study because the study may document existing knowledge by adding rich detail about leadership and may help to understand leadership from the perspective of the actors (Ospina, 2004). The contextual factors of a phenomenon allow a researcher to observe and describe the subjective factors that affect a given situation (Conger, 1998; Ospina, 2004). Other research methods were not appropriate to obtain the requisite data because leadership scholars had sought answers to questions about leadership culture and had found quantitative methods did not adequately explain the phenomenon (Olivares, Peterson, & Hess, 2007; Ospina, 2004). The qualitative phenomenological study involved identifying themes and general statements developed by what the participants experienced in relation to followership, whereas a quantitative study would have included a focus on numbers.
A quantitative method is appropriate when using an objective scientific approach with defined collected numerical data and statistical analysis (Creswell, 2009), but was not appropriate for the current study. The process of collecting numeric data on followership was inappropriate because followership consists of nonquantifiable attributes (Kelley, 2008). Numbers could not adequately describe the phenomenon of followership because the study required describing the phenomenon from the perspectives of observers.
Other qualitative methods were not appropriate for the study. Grounded theory is a strategy in which researchers seek to develop a theory about a specific process and was not appropriate for the study (Creswell, 2009). Ethnography was not appropriate because ethnographers study a cultural group over a long period of time (Creswell, 2009). Other research methods would not have been appropriate to obtain the requisite data because researchers applying these methods would not be able to take into account the human experience associated with the phenomenological research method (Creswell, 2009). The qualitative phenomenological research method was appropriate to the study because the study involved examining the data of the perceived and lived experiences of the participants (Olivares et al., 2007) as they pertained to the phenomenon of followership.
The focus of the qualitative phenomenological study was to conduct interviews of 20 midlevel managers in the hospitality industry along the Gulf Coast and explore their lived experiences and informed perceptions of followership traits as they related to leadership skills. The research questions for the study follow:
What are the lived experiences of midlevel managers from the hospitality industry along the Gulf Coast regarding the followership traits that translate to leadership skills?
What are the informed perceptions of midlevel managers in the hospitality industry along the Gulf Coast regarding the followership traits that translate to leadership skills?
The conceptual framework of the research study was to explore the lived experiences of the participants as midlevel managers in the hospitality industry along the Gulf Coast. The conceptual framework of the study emerged from the lived experiences relating to the leadership and followership traits of the participants. The study involved exploring the conceptual framework from a systems perspective. The study was grounded in systems theory (Checkland, 1999). Systems thinking originated as a generalization of ideas about biology in the first half of the 20th century (Checkland, 1999). In the late 1940s, researchers extrapolated these generalizations of biological ideas to include whole systems of any type (von Bertalanffy, 1968). Systems theory models can provide a means to collect data, provide for the analysis of the data, and predict behaviors (Checkland, 1999).
Critchlow (2005) used systems theory to determine the wholeness or completeness of participants’ careers and education, as well as interactions with other individuals. This combination allowed Critchlow to explore the factors the participants considered vital in their career development as community college presidents. Systems theory was applicable to the study because the study involved researching each participant’s career and interpersonal interactions with followers and forming conclusions.
Definition of Terms
Followership is the ability of individuals to follow the instructions of their superior to achieve organizational goals (Agho, 2009).
Hospitality industry is a generic title for different areas of the hotel and restaurant industries (Ottenbacher et al., 2009).
Leadership is “an influence relationship among leaders and followers who intend real changes and outcomes that reflect their shared purposes” (Daft, 2011, p. 5).
Midlevel manager is a broad term generally understood to be defined as a manager below the top manager and above the first level supervisory positions (Wooldridge et al., 2008) with at least one direct report and has been in the current position for at least 1 year.
Assumptions, Limitations, and Delimitations
Respondents of the study understood leadership and the characteristics associated with successful leadership. Asking questions in the interview to determine leadership knowledge and skill served to overcome the lack of specific knowledge (Creswell, 2009). Another assumption was a significant difference would not exist in the responses of men and women nor would the age and experience of the respondents have any effect on the study. Another assumption was the lived experiences of the managers would provide information about their direct accounts of the perceived factors that affect followership in their organizations (Ospina, 2004).
Limitations indicate the potential weaknesses of a study that could affect the results (Creswell, 2003). Limiting the scope of the research to 20 participants was to manage the data collected for analysis. Possible weaknesses of the current study were the age, gender, and experience level of the respondents. All these combined could have had an effect on their understandings of the concepts of leadership and followership. Another potential weakness of the study could have been the educational background and field of study of the respondents. An additional possible limitation was the honesty of the respondents when they provided information.
Researchers need to identify delimitations to narrow the scope of a research study (Creswell, 2003). The scope of the current research was to provide a clear and concise description of the characteristics of exemplary followership. The population was limited to midlevel hospitality managers in hotels with more than 100 and less than 400 employees. The reader will make a determination whether the results of the potential research findings could be transferable to other types of organizations. All interviews were voluntary. The members of each organization who may have consented to an interview were included.
Significance of the Study
Reduction of Gaps
Leadership research indicates the follower is a passive element and not relevant when considering leadership (Avolio, 2007). The study involved developing patterns of information demonstrating whether followership is vital to leadership. The study also involved searching for information that would aid in thematic awareness of the idea that to lead, one must know how to follow. Adair (2008) contended, “Followership is not a part of leadership—leadership is a part of followership” (p. 138). Leaders in business may use the knowledge and information gained to aid them in developing leadership programs within their respective organizations. Individuals taught to understand the nature of followership will be better prepared to become the leaders of the future within their organizations. Organizational leaders spend 80% of their training time on 20% of the organization: leadership (Adair, 2008). Conversely, organizational leaders spend 20% their time on the followers (Adair, 2008). Dixon (2008) contended American leaders are preoccupied with leadership and leadership development. The current research helps to eliminate the gap between leadership and followership and provide information that can be developed and added to all levels of the leadership curriculum.
Implications for Social Change
The study serves to expand the knowledge of leadership from a followership perspective by exploring insights into how midlevel managers in the hospitality industry perceive followership. Adair (2008) noted researchers should study leadership and followership in concert because a crossover exists between them. The information and knowledge gained from the envisioned study should be applicable beyond leadership and followership. Agho (2009) purported followership is an important trait of one’s character. Agho also noted followership “has remained an undervalued and underappreciated concept among management development practitioners and researchers” (p. 159). The information gained from the study improved the understanding of followership and the characteristics of a good follower. The research expanded the understanding of the process of leadership and the characteristics and behaviors leaders at all levels of business should exhibit. Identifying the characteristics of followership has the potential to allow for a better method of identifying those who are best suited for leadership training. The training may improve leadership at all levels of an organization. The information gained may also allow for the development of training programs emphasizing specific followership traits that translate directly to leadership skills.
A Review of the Professional and Academic Literature
A literature review should include a framework to identify the importance of a study and establish a benchmark for comparing results with the results of other studies (Creswell, 2009). The literature reviewed provides background and definition for leadership as well as followership. By analyzing scholarly journal articles and texts, I provide a basis and framework to study the depth and scope of the phenomenon of followership. The literature reviewed will include leadership theory, followership theory, and hospitality management. The purpose of the qualitative phenomenological study was to explore the followership characteristics that translate to good leadership. The research questions for the study are as follows: What are the lived experiences of midlevel managers from the hospitality industry along the Gulf Coast regarding the followership traits that translate to leadership skills? What are the informed perceptions of midlevel managers in the hospitality industry along the Gulf Coast regarding the followership traits that translate to leadership skills?
To achieve performance benefits, proactive employees seek to build strong networks with those who have the influence and resources to succeed (Thompson, 2005). Proactive employees seek to build a social environment that will lead to their own success. In administrative situations, a proactive personality may benefit the effectiveness of proactive employees as they will seek solutions to organizational problems. Employees with proactive personalities would be more likely to be self- starters and take the initiative to begin projects without cues from supervisors to benefit the organization (Thompson, 2005).
The current leadership models are effective for top down organizational paradigms (Uhl-Bien, Marion, & McKelvey, 2007) but are inadequate for application in a knowledge oriented organization. A need exists to distinguish between leaders and leadership (Uhl-Bien et al., 2007); leadership is the product of adaptive outcomes and the leader is the individual in charge who influences the outcomes. Leadership in a knowledge based organization entails leadership viewed not from an individual state but from a more complex adaptive systems approach (Uhl-Bien et al., 2007). Uhl-Bien et al. (2007) developed a framework for leadership that encompasses three functions: adaptive, administrative, and enabling. The proximal source of change in an organization is adaptive leadership, and the role of enabling leadership is to foster the circumstances that will allow for adaptive leadership (Uhl-Bien et al., 2007).
Combinations of traits and attributes, rather than being additive, are independent single traits and more likely to predict leadership ability (Zaccaro, 2007). Leader attributes are cross situational in establishing the stability of leadership performance. The cross situational situation is critical in the explanation of leadership behavior. Zaccaro (2004, as cited in Zaccaro, 2007) defined leader traits as “coherent and integrated patterns of personal characteristics, reflecting a range of individual differences, which foster consistent leadership effectiveness across a variety of group and organizational situations” (pp. 7-8).
A leader’s analysis of the followers in an organization relates to the how the followers identify with the organization (Van Dick, Hirst, Grojean, & Wieseke, 2007). How satisfied followers are with their circumstances as followers and their willingness to perform in an exemplary manner determines follower identity with the organization. The leader who stimulates a follower to analyze and look at an organization in terms of the group encourages followers toward feeling, thinking, and acting on behalf of the group’s norms. Social identity aspects of leadership have focused on the influence leaders exert toward followers to increase self-efficacy, commitment, and performance (Van Dick et al., 2007). Leaders are members of the group, and such identification serves as a motivator to act on behalf of the group’s interest. A leader who strongly identifies with his or her organization may use socialization procedures to develop the organization specific role of the follower (Van Dick et al., 2007).
Researchers should address questions such as whether leaders are born not made, what constitutes leadership effectiveness, and in what context different forms of leadership will emerge (Avolio, 2007). The argument about what constitutes leadership should indicate the importance of followers (Avolio, 2007), and in this context, most leadership research indicates a follower is passive or nonexistent. The leader–member exchange theory identifies the relationship between leaders and followers, and the exchange has a bearing on the outcomes achieved (Avolio, 2007). The exchange between leader and follower is the result of the organizational climate in which they find themselves.
Carson, Tesluk, and Marrone (2007) conceptualized leadership in relation to the strength of influence or the source of influence. Shared leadership or authority reaches team members rather than being collected into a single leader. The pattern of emerging influence in teams is the increase of the teams’ internal leadership networks (Carson et al., 2007). A leadership network includes those individuals who rely on others for leadership within the team. Team empowerment leads to shared leadership because team members exercise influence (Carson et al., 2007), and shared leadership leads to greater empowerment depending upon the stage of team development.
Leadership has a long evolutionary history, having come about as the result of group challenges such as group movement and competition (Van Vugt, Hogan, & Kaiser, 2008). In a group situation, the first mover is more likely to become the leader. Task leadership emerges when the interests of the leaders and the interests of the followers coincide; however, when the interests of the two groups diverge, people oriented leadership emerges (Van Vugt et al., 2008).
Strong negative relationships exist with leadership criteria in the laissez-faire leadership style (Hinkin & Schriesheim, 2008). Follower performance does not precipitate laissez-faire leadership, as in active or passive management by exception and contingent reward style. “Laissez-faire leadership does not appear to be motivated and intentional; it is simply the lack of any response to subordinates’ needs and performance” (Hinkin & Schriesheim, 2008, p. 1235). Factors beyond the control of the leader may be inconsistent or unacceptable when a leader attaches no action to the performance of followers. Lack of any action can produce negative consequences when a subordinate portrays poor performance and could be worse when the performance is good (Hinkin & Schriesheim, 2008).
The corporate culture is not something formally appointed leaders can design deliberately (Painter-Morland, 2008). Current literature about ethical leadership indicates interactions between leaders and followers are important. A shift has occurred in the way individuals interpret their relationships with their employers (Painter-Morland, 2008). Consequently, the control and influence over these individuals is no longer the sole responsibility of the appointed leader.
Leadership and followership relationships should be considered from a temporal perspective (Bluedorn & Jaussi, 2008). With respect to leadership, time should be considered by viewing the life cycles of leaders, their development, and their performance (Bluedorn & Jaussi, 2008); this inside-the-career view of time considers a leader’s development across time. Entrainment within the leader–follower relationship is a viable link between the development of the organization and the employees, where entrainment is the adjustment of pace or the cycle of one activity to synchronize with another phenomenon (Bluedorn & Jaussi, 2007). The extension of entrainment theory as a phenomenon can occur between different levels of individuals and collectives.
The changing internal and external conditions of business result in pressure to modify the roles and processes of leaders and followers (Küpers & Weibler, 2008). Leadership research reflects the trend for change and has reflected the social sciences (Küpers & Weibler, 2008). The fact that an individual’s traits and characteristics are not well-suited to study leadership is evidence of the change in research (Küpers & Weibler, 2008). Leadership is a dynamic process focused on emotional as well as social systems (Küpers & Weibler, 2008).
A social structure develops when a social activity convenes, and one of the defining characteristics of the structure is the emergence of a leader (Judge, Piccolo, & Kosalka, 2009). Emergence of a leader does not contradict the importance of individual characteristics (Judge et al., 2009); rather, the emergence of leadership is proof of individual differences. The individual characteristics manifest themselves as bright and dark traits. The bright traits are conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, emotional stability, openness to experience, core self-evaluation, intelligence, and charisma, and the dark traits are narcissism, hubris, social dominance, and Machiavellianism (Judge et al., 2009). The leader trait perspective experienced decades of prominence followed by much skepticism and lack of interest.
The definition of leadership reflects the idea that leadership is a process and involves the exertion of intentional influence to facilitate activities and relationships within a group or organization (Yukl, 2010). The general tendency to give credit to only the leader clouds the followers’ contributions. Effective followers are responsible for the successful completion of work carried out by the unit. To be effective, a follower must integrate two different roles: the role of implementer of leader made decisions and the role of challenger if the decisions made by the leader are ill-advised (Yukl, 2010). Effective followers are more likely to be committed to the organization and its vision. Followers who view themselves as active and independent rather than passive and dependent upon their leader are more likely to be effective (Yukl, 2010).