‘Influencing upwards’ : a phenomenological study of “effective followership” in the UK HE sector

Cunningham, Darren and Collinson, David (2019) ‘Influencing upwards’ : a phenomenological study of “effective followership” in the UK HE sector. PhD thesis, Lancaster University.

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This thesis examines the possible meanings of ‘effective’ and ‘ineffective’ followership, drawing on the growing interest and literature on this topic. The approach is to explore how ‘upward influence’ can be a possible determinant of ‘effective followership’ by focusing on the workings of such influence within leadership dynamics. The study presents a phenomenological inquiry into the lived experiences of upward influence amongst 18 Academic Leaders and 17 Administration Managers from 16 institutions in the UK higher education sector. The study seeks to develop a critical approach to analysing followership and the research findings. In so doing, it reveals the significance of meaning that is attached to the key themes of control, identity and influencing tactics in cases where upward influence appears to be effective or ineffective. What the findings show is that followers influence upwards to generate and cultivate social power. They learn to be tactical and frequently refine their capacity to influence upwards that emerges in one’s consciousness as a followership style. The leader becomes more encouraging and receptive to certain followership styles and established hard-edged dichotomies between leadership and followership begin to blur. The consequence is more autonomy to practice followership to achieve desired outcomes with a reduced risk of failure or punishment. Subsequently, effectiveness is managing the flow of upward influence, monitoring the effects, and learning how to have more impact, which all inform the adoption and switching of identities. This is reciprocally viewed as an obligation of leaders and followers to reposition themselves to sustain their mutual effectiveness within contextual parameters. Consequently, the experience of effective followership reveals a normative/moral essence that is inescapable.

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Thesis (PhD)
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12 Dec 2019 15:25
Last Modified:
06 Jun 2024 23:49