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Thinking about Leadership by Nannerl O. Keohane

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TWO

How and Why Do Followers Matter?

ACCORDING TO WELLESLEY COLLEGE legend, Mildred McAfee Horton commented on an admissions application in which the student’s teacher had written apologetically: “Mary is not a leader, but she is an excellent follower.” President Horton responded: “By all means admit Mary; with a class of four hundred and fifty leaders we need at least one follower.”

Leaders by definition have followers. As Bruce Miroff puts it, “If any single characteristic is the hallmark of leadership, it is interaction: there are no leaders without followers.”1 In small informal groups there is little distinction between them; but in a city, nation-state, or corporation, sets of designated individuals do the work of leadership and others ...

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