Since Plato's articulation of the philosopher king, scholars and researchers from many disciplines have explored the Great Plains of leadership while hardly noticing followers. In addition, they have scaled the peaks and examined the endless crannies of leadership, following a treasure map whose destination was the Holy Grail of leadership. Seldom on that map did a "Followers" signpost appear.
Some leadership researchers have excavated ancient cultures to determine how leaders lived and ruled in times and worlds past. Others navigated the turbulent waters of history, in search of lost ideas and ideals of leadership. Still others have sifted the sands of individual leaders' lives, seeking biographical shards that might offer clues to this elusive phenomenon. During all these arduous, centuries-long searches for leaders, followers appeared only infrequently.
Oddly enough, despite a significant literature on social movements directly concerned with followers' behavior, linkages to the field of leadership are sparse. Even the social psychological experiments on conformity played a minor role in leadership theory.
It took sociologist Max Weber to nudge the exploration of leadership toward a consideration of followers and their perceptions. His discussion of charismatic leadership that "compelled" the awe of followers would lay some early groundwork on which leadership theorists could build. In fact, James MacGregor Burns's seminal distinction ...