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Followers proactive behaviour as a key factor of the “in-group” membership

This article addresses LMX theory and how this relates to 'in-group' membership.

In the previous step you were introduced to the LMX theory as a way to explain leader – follower relationship and you learned that followers who are perceived by their leader as performant are assigned to the in-group while those who are not seen as performant fall into the “out-group”.

In this step, you will be looking at how followers’ proactive behaviour can be instrumental to group success as well as a key factor allowing them to be assigned to the “in-group” by their leader.

Followers’ proactive behaviour is defined as the ability of a follower to undertake future-oriented action intended to change an external condition or to self-develop.

Compared to passive followers, proactive followers display less deference to their leaders and try to partner with them in pursuing the mission of the team or organisation.

There are several ways to demonstrate proactive behaviour as a follower at the in-role and extra-role levels, but also when exercising upward influence (Lapierre and Bremner, 2010).

Followership and in‐role behaviour:

When carrying out formal duties and responsibilities associated with their jobs, proactive followers tend to show initiative in determining with the leader whether their responsibilities and how they are performed should be adjusted.

Followership and extra‐role behaviour:

Proactive followers show altruism and voluntarily contribute in a way that transcends their formally prescribed roles. They also engage in voice behaviour and openly challenge the status quo by suggesting ways to improve their organisation’s processes and operations.

Upward influence and impression management tactics:

Followers are able to take actions to advance a personal or organisational goal by influencing the leader. Followers use tactics such as ingratiation, rational persuasion, inspirational appeal, consultation and personal appeal to lead from the bottom and create strong relationships with their leaders.

Reflect & Reply

Please reflect upon the key question below and respond using the comments section below.

Think about your leadership style. How could your behaviour as a leader help to develop your followers’ proactivity?


Lapierre L. M., Bremner N. (2010). Reversing the lens: how can followers influence their Leader’s behavior. Paper Presented at the Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management, Montréal, QC.

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How to Harness Followership for Leadership Success

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