The Risky Path to a Followership Identity: From Abstract Concept to Situated Reality

Magnus Larsson*, Mie Femø Nielsen

*Corresponding author for this work

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Followership research has increased recently, but little attention has been paid to the complexities and challenges of creating a followership identity. Researchers typically portray followership as a safe alternative to leadership identity, but we challenge this assumption by using naturally occurring workplace interactions to identify active contributions as well as risks associated with a follower identity. In this study, we use conversation analysis to examine how people collaboratively construct identities, and how identity development shapes and organizes interactions between people. The findings reveal the risks of misidentifying the task at hand, of being too authoritative, and of claiming too much knowledge. Also, our analyses highlight that leader and follower roles remain abstract in workplace interactions and, instead, people focus more on negotiated, task-oriented, practical identities.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Business Communication
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)3-30
Number of pages28
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021

Bibliographical note

Published online: 1. November 2017


  • Followership
  • Leadership
  • Conversation analysis
  • Interaction
  • Interactional risks

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