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The Art of Followership: How Great Followers Create Great Leaders and Organizations by Ronald E. Riggio, Jean Lipman-Blumen, Ira Chaleff

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Chapter 10. Followership in a Professional Services Firm

Brent Uken

It is a fundamental business tenet that corporations pursue activities that help them achieve competitive advantage and improve the underlying economics of their operations. Activities range from making strategic decisions that fuel growth to implementing programs focused on increasing the productivity and well-being of their employees.

Some practitioners argue that a strong, positive culture of empowerment and mutual respect is the most important component of sustainable competitive advantage, particularly in a professional services firm. Regardless of whether or not this claim is true, positive changes in the underlying culture of a corporation provide significant benefits, not the least of which are improvements in employee retention and creation of a differentiating factor in the market for corporate talent.

In my firm, I have experienced several organizational changes during my seventeen-year tenure, some driven by internal forces, such as our transition to global focus and alignment, and some required by current or anticipated future external forces, such as competitive challenges, the issuance of new accounting rules, and changes in securities industry regulations. In addition, given the size and structure of our firm, we operate as a matrix organization, where individuals may have several solid- and dotted-line reporting relationships. This type of environment may be ambiguous and frustrating for team members, ...

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