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Disciplines > Leadership > Followership > Non-followership

Refusal | Desertion | See also


What is the opposite of followership? If we can identify what followership is not then we can understand more of what it is, and so what leadership is.


The first way of not becoming a follower is to refuse to accept the invitation. A leader approaches a possible follower and seeks to change their mind in a way that will convince the person to follow. However, the person may not buy the argument or may refuse because they do not trust or like the putative leader.

When the leader first appears, then overcoming refusal is a critical activity. If you cannot persuade anyone, then leadership does not get off the ground.


If following is moving towards the leader, then the opposite must be moving away from the leader. If the person has already 'signed up' then you could describe their departure as 'desertion'.

Many people desert through disappointment, where initial promise is not fulfilled. This can come from poor leadership. It can also come from unrealistic expectations where the follower is expecting a savior rather than a leader.

A good leader works constantly on keeping followers engaged and preventing desertion, setting and meeting stretching but realistic expectations.

Physical desertion

In organizations, when people are unhappy they are at liberty to leave for another job. One of the highest cited reasons for leaving is a problem with one's manager, which is clear evidence of failed leadership and consequent desertion of followership.

'Attrition', or the percentage of the workforce that leave the organization in a single year, is therefore a useful measure of overall leadership in the organization.

Emotional desertion

As well as the more visible physical desertion, people perhaps more often indulge in emotional desertion. This is the state of no longer buying into the leader or their ideas. It is the transition of going from a follower back to being just a subordinate. By implication also it means the leader (if they truly ever were one) also goes back to being a manager.

Emotional desertion happens where the leader's words do not match their actions. They start with expert appeals and a desirable vision. However, their implementation leaves a lot to be desired and people become disillusioned and so desert them, emotionally at least, in droves.

See also



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