Open access peer-reviewed chapter

Optimizing Innovative Leadership and Followership

Written By

Neil E. Grunberg, Erin S. Barry, Michael Morrow-Fox and Maureen Metcalf

Submitted: 03 August 2021 Reviewed: 09 August 2021 Published: 05 September 2021

DOI: 10.5772/intechopen.99860

From the Edited Volume

Leadership - New Insights

Edited by Mário Franco

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Leadership and followership development are increasingly recognized as important in all fields of the workforce. The Innovative Leadership Model helps leaders increase self-understanding and optimize the performance of organizations by focusing on Leader Type, Developmental Perspective, Resilience, Situational Analysis, and Leadership Behaviors and Mindsets. The Leader-Follower Framework identifies key elements – Character, Competence, Communication, Context – to guide the development of individual leaders and followers across four psychosocial levels – Personal, Interpersonal, Team, Organizational. Each of these approaches has value and has been applied in various settings and contexts. The present chapter offers a new insight relevant to leadership by combining these two perspectives and their component elements. Understanding and developing each of these elements will optimize effective leadership and followership in a wide range of situations and settings.


  • innovative leadership
  • leader type
  • developmental perspective
  • resilience
  • situational analysis
  • leadership behaviors and mindsets
  • leader-follower framework
  • character
  • competence
  • communication
  • context
  • personal
  • interpersonal
  • team
  • organizational

1. Introduction

Development of individuals as leaders is important in all fields of the workforce. Within teams, in addition to the diversity of the individual team members (including leaders and followers), uniqueness of team members, individual goals, communication styles, differing leadership and followership styles, and so on introduce challenges to true teamwork and must all be considered to optimize goal achievement of individuals, teams, and organizations [1, 2, 3].

Leadership influences individuals, teams, and groups by enhancing behaviors (actions), cognitions (perceptions, thoughts, beliefs), and motivations (reasons behaviors and cognitions) to achieve common goals. Leaders are aspirational, inspirational, provide resources, and remove barriers to optimize the success of followers, organizations, and the people served by organizations. Leaders must continuously attend to and align all elements of the systems within which they operate to adapt and respond to changes from within and outside the system. Followership refers to the actions of individuals who are not in leadership roles. Followers are members of a team or group who contribute (or not) to the team; align (or not) with the vision of the leader, and adapt (or not) to the situations and to other members of the team. Effective followers are essential to achieve goals and can influence all members of the team, including their leaders [4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9].

Day [10] distinguishes between leaders and leadership, such that “leader” refers to human capital and intrapersonal knowledge, skills, abilities, attitudes, and attributes, and “leadership” refers to social capital, interpersonal relationships, and organization culture. The same distinction can be made for followers and followership.

Innovative leaders engage their intentions and actions with those of their followers within the organization’s culture and systems to reach the organization’s objectives and goals and those of the people it serves. Innovative leaders consider and serve the interests of the organization and its members. Leaders influence followers, teams, and the whole organization. Followers can influence leaders, other followers, teams, and the entire organization. Innovative leaders and followers adapt and develop themselves and their organizations to optimize effectiveness within changing environments or context (physical, psychological, social) [11, 12].

There are many different models and approaches for leader and leadership development. Some focus on the development of leaders [9, 10, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19] and followers [20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28] per se, whereas others focus on leadership and followership in practice or on the organizational or systems levels [29, 30, 31, 32]. There is value to both levels of development to achieve optimal performance of individuals within organizations and systems.

Recently, we have merged two models to address all of these needs for health care leadership [12]. The Innovative Leadership Model helps leaders increase self-understanding and optimize the performance of organizations by focusing on Leader Type, Development Perspective, Resilience, Situational Analysis, and Leadership Behaviors and Mindsets. The Innovative Leadership Model focuses on development perspective and growth of individuals to serve organizations and systems. The Leader-Follower Framework identifies key elements – Character, Competence, Communication, Context – to guide the development of individual leaders and followers across four psychosocial levels – Personal, Interpersonal, Team, Organizational [5, 7]. The Leader-Follower Framework focuses on the elements relevant to meaningfully development and performance of individual leaders and followers. The inclusion of key aspects of these two models may offer a valuable new insight into optimizing. Each of these approaches has value and has been applied in various settings and contexts. The present chapter offers new insights into how integrating these approaches can optimize innovative leadership and followership in a wide range of situations and settings.

2. Innovative leadership and followership

Leadership impacts people strategically and tactically, effecting change in intentions, actions, cultures, and systems to move organizations forward in ways that improve the lives of the people it serves while considering the interests of the organization’s members and stakeholders. Innovation refers to novel ideas, processes, and advancements that contribute to and shape organizations and people. Meaningful leadership and innovation are inextricably connected. Merging leadership with innovation encourages and, perhaps, demands transformational personal and organizational growth [33, 34]. Table 1 presents contrasts between traditional leadership and innovative leadership.

Innovative leadership and followership mean that leaders and followers influence and contribute by engaging personal intention/character and action/competence/communication with the organization’s culture, systems, and context. Innovative leadership and followership can improve organizations and the lives of the people it serves by considering the interests, needs, and goals of the organizational members and stakeholders. Innovative leaders consistently deliver results using [35, 36, 37]:

  • Strategic approaches that inspire individual intentions and goals and organizational vision and culture;

  • Tactical approaches that influence individuals’ actions and organizations’ systems and processes;

  • Holistic approaches that align individual intentions and actions with organizational cultures and systems.

Innovative followers embrace, embody, and contribute to all three of these approaches.

2.1 The value of innovative leadership and followership

Innovating/elevating leadership and followership means to successfully adapt in ways that allow optimal performance, even within the changes and complexity of an organization or system. Conceptually, individuals integrate ideas and perspectives from many leadership and followership principles and concepts, and from developmental, communications, and systems theories [38, 39]. Innovative leaders and followers recognize and critically examine themselves and their organizations’ cultures and systems during various circumstances. It is valuable for individuals to focus on the needs and mission of the organization, system, and cultures to which they contribute. In addition, individuals should recognize how they contribute to something larger than themselves.

2.2 Defining what innovative leaders and followers do

Innovative leaders utilize their advanced developmental capability to facilitate transformational ideas and approaches that enable innovation [33, 34, 36]. They are aware of and focus on others and the organizations/systems in which they operate. Behaviors of developmentally mature innovate leaders and followers who grow developmentally and in organizational effectiveness include (Table 2):

Traditional LeadershipInnovative Leadership
The leader is guided primarily by the desire for personal success and peripherally by the organizational successThe leader is humbly guided by a more altruistic vision of success based on both performance and the value of the organization’s positive impact
The leader decides in a “command and control” style; the leader has all the answersThe leader leverages the team for answers as part of the decision-making process
The leader picks a direction in “black/white” manner; tends to stay the course dogmaticallyThe leader perceives and behaves like a scientist: continually experimenting, measuring, and testing for improvement and exploring new models and approaches
The leader focuses on being technically correct and in chargeThe leader is continually learning and developing self and others
The leader manages people to perform by being autocratic and controllingThe leader motivates people to perform through strategic focus, mentoring and coaching, emotional and social intelligence
The leader tends to the numbers and primarily utilizes quantitative measures that drive those numbersThe leader pays attention to performance, customer satisfaction, employee engagement, community impact, and cultural cohesion

Table 1.

Traditional vs. innovative leadership [11, 12].

Innovative LeadersInnovative Followers
Articulate clear visionEmbrace and contribute to vision
Connect vision with attainable actionsConnect vision with attainable actions
Develop themselves and followersDevelop themselves and other teammates
Are resilient and navigate complexity, uncertainty, and stressAre resilient and navigate complexity, uncertainty, and stress
Communicate effectively, sending and receiving information, verbally and nonverballyCommunicate effectively sending and receiving, verbally and nonverbally
Build effective teams by helping followers participate and growContribute to their teams
Communicate roles for all team members clearlyUnderstand their roles and the roles of others
Create a culture of fairness, respect and recognitionAbility to impact individuals, teams, and systems to create a fair and engaging organization
Develop a culture of safetyEmbody a culture of safety
Cultivate alliances and partnershipsCultivate alliances and partnerships
Anticipate and effectively respond to challenges and opportunitiesAnticipate and effectively respond to challenges and opportunities
Develop robust and resilient solutionsApply robust and resilient solutions
Measure, learn, and adaptLearn and adapt
Grow personally and developmentally to evolve perceptions and meaning-making capabilitiesGrow personally and developmentally to evolve perceptions and meaning-making capabilities

Table 2.

Behaviors of innovative leaders and followers.

3. Merging innovative leadership and the leader-follower framework: New insights

To optimize innovative leadership and followership, we offer the merging of two conceptual models. The “Innovative Leadership Model” [11, 12] and the “Leader-Follower Framework” [5, 6, 7] complement each other and overlap with a differing depth of emphasis on essential leadership and followership elements and processes. Together they provide new insights into a broadly inclusive structure to develop optimal leadership and followership. These two approaches recently have been applied together to optimize the development of innovative leaders in health care [12, 40]. Yet, they also can be applied more broadly to enhance the innovative leader and follower development in all settings.

The Innovative Leadership Model is a five-element roadmap to becoming an innovative leader [11, 12]. The elements of the Innovative Leadership Model are (Figure 1):

  • Leader Type

  • Developmental Perspective

  • Resilience

  • Situational Analysis

  • Leadership Behaviors and Mindsets

Figure 1.

Overview of the innovative leadership model.

The Leader-Follower Framework [5, 7] includes four “C” elements:

  • Character

  • Competence

  • Context

  • Communication

that apply across four psychosocial levels:
  • Personal

  • Interpersonal

  • Team

  • Organizational

The Innovative Leadership Model and Leader-Follower Framework are valuable to develop both as leaders and as followers. To be an effective leader, you also must be willing and able to develop followers. It is essential for leaders and followers to understand, develop, and know when and how to lead and follow (Figure 2).

Figure 2.

The leader-follower framework.

3.1 Elements of innovative leadership

The Innovative Leadership Model [11, 12] focuses on:

  • Developmental maturity – developing the advancing meaning-making capacity to easily and intuitively identify complexity, approach others without ego, embrace both tactical and strategic concerns, and embrace transformation (i.e., capabilities to execute highly effective Competence and Communication at the Interpersonal, Team, and Organizational psychosocial levels)

  • Self-understanding – the inner process including Character and outer behaviors including Competence and Communication (i.e., three of the C’s of the Leader-Follower Framework at the Personal psychosocial level)

  • Understanding organizational culture and systems (i.e., Context within the Leader-Follower Framework at the Organizational psychosocial level)

The Innovative Leadership model addresses: Leader Type, Developmental Perspective, Resilience, Situational Analysis, and Leadership Behaviors and Mindsets.

Leader Type refers to the core predispositions, traits, and attitudes of each person. These attributes influence who we are as a leader, our responses to stress, and how other people (including followers) experience our leadership. There are several valuable tools to help describe our Leader Type: Enneagram [41]; Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) [42, 43]; Revised NEO Personality Inventory (NEO-PI-R) [44]; True Colors [45]; Big Five Personality Test [46]. The DISC Profile [47] and StrengthFinder 2.0 [48] provide additional, useful information relevant to Leader Type.

Self-awareness is the practice of engaging in self-reflection and achieving clarity of insight. Internal self-awareness refers to our own understanding of ourselves, whereas external self-awareness refers to understanding how others perceive and understand us. Self-understanding, understanding how others perceive us, and the extent to which perceptions about ourselves are accurate and compatible with others’ perceptions play a pivotal role in our effectiveness and leader-follower relationships. Self-aware individuals possess high levels of emotional intelligence; self-regulate behaviors, cognitions, and emotions more effectively depending on the situation; and continually evaluate their impact on others [49, 50, 51, 52, 53]. These attributes allow self-aware individuals to become more versatile, adaptive, and may perform better. The ability to use deep self-reflection relies on developing self-understanding and self-awareness, features of emotional intelligence. Self-understanding and self-awareness allow us to expand our perspective and to understand others better. A clearer understanding of ourselves and others can help build interpersonal, team, and organizational effectiveness. Feedback from trusted colleagues, family members, and friends in psychologically safe contexts is extremely valuable to develop self-awareness. Leader Type is an aspect of Character.

Developmental Perspective or Developmental “Maturity” refers to stages of personal development that include perspectives, experiences, and capabilities to make the meaning necessary to execute change initiatives [35, 36], solutions to complex problems [54, 55], and organizational transformations [38, 56]. Developmental Perspectives affect how we view our roles, how we interact with other people, and how we solve problems. In other words, this perspective can be described as “meaning-making,” or how we make sense of experiences using the Leadership Maturity Framework (LMF). The LMF considers cognitive complexity, emotional competence, and behavior and holds that we can progress through maturity levels as we learn and evolve. Moreover, more mature or evolved individuals are more effective at leading complex organizations in times of change. In contrast, individuals at an earlier level of developmental maturity rely on rules to make decisions and determine appropriate courses of action, whereas individuals at later stages use their values to guide decision-making and to determine what actions to take.

Developmental growth occurs as other capabilities expand in our lives. By understanding and building upon our Leader Type and Character, we can continue to grow, increasing access to and capacity for additional skills and capabilities. That is, we can develop our capacity to build beyond the basic skills we have now by moving through more progressive stages. The successful individual has a broad repertoire of mindsets and behaviors and can select the most appropriate ones depending on the context.

Resilience reveals how much disturbance we can withstand before breaking [57] and also refers to the ability to adapt to change while continuing to be both fluid in approach and driven toward attaining strategic goals [58]. Addressing and strengthening resilience is critical to manage stress and increase capacity to function in stressful environments and situations.

Innovative leaders and followers must adapt to volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA) situations and demands while maintaining physical, psychological, and emotional health to have the resilience essential for success. They must build and sustain flexibility, adaptability, and focus; regain balance after disorienting situations; and be able to support and inspire others. Resilience can inspire and positively impact others.

Resilience requires physical and psychological health, a clear sense of life purpose, emotional intelligence, and strong supportive relationships. For most people, enhancing resilience requires personal change. Our view of resilience has four categories: maintaining physical well-being, managing thinking, working from the heart, and harnessing the power of connection. These categories are interlinked and all must be present and in balance to create long-term resilience. Maintaining resilience is essential to success. Improved resilience is accompanied by clearer thinking and greater positive interactions with others. Investing in resilience supports the entire organization’s effectiveness [12]. Resilience is a transcendent leadership Competence.

Situational Analysis involves understanding and adapting to Context; aligning and balancing self, individual action, organizational culture, and organizational systems; and performing to achieve the best outcomes [12]. This multi-pronged approach provides a complete and accurate view of events and context to create alignment across the Innovative Leadership Model on an ongoing basis. Understanding an organization’s culture and systems is essential to determine how to adapt our behaviors. We must understand the context and adjust to the situation and to the organization’s mission and goals.

In addition, innovative leaders and followers communicate with teammates and stakeholders relevant to the mission and goals of an organization. Effective communication requires “making meaning” of what is happening based on context, translated into words that senders and receivers mutually understand. We sense, receive, and convey messages verbally and non-verbally. Situational analysis allows us to make more informed decisions, and also helps to optimize performance within oneself, teams, and the broader organization.

Leadership Behaviors and Mindsets refer to leadership knowledge, skills, and attitudes and the resulting behaviors [12] or Competence and mindset or meaning making. The mindsets inform effective behaviors. These behaviors are essential and measurable because they are the objective actions that leaders and followers take to impact organizational success. Effective behaviors of leaders and followers determine individual and team performance, team cohesiveness, individual and team morale, and organizational success. Conversely, ineffective behaviors of leaders and followers lead to poor performance, poor cohesiveness, poor morale, and organizational dysfunction or failure.

Knowledge of the key concepts described in the Innovative Leadership Model and associated skills and practice result in effective leadership behaviors and mindsets – the objective actions that leaders take to impact individual, team, and organizational success. Knowledge and practice of these same concepts result in effective followership behaviors. These behaviors align with the idea of developmental maturity and specify critical behaviors and mindsets associated with the most effective leaders in complex and dynamic situations. Therefore, it is important to understand the critical leadership and followership behaviors relevant to you and your organization. With this understanding, you can determine where you excel and where you need to refine your skills.

It also is relevant to consider and to develop your mindset to exercise effective leadership and followership behaviors. Table 3 lists seven mindsets and associated behaviors that effective leaders and followers put into action regularly [12, 59].

Examples of Innovative Mindsets and Behaviors
Professionally humbleCares most about team’s and organization’s success
  • Commits to the team and organizational mission

  • Cares most about the organization’s success

  • Gives credit to others

  • Puts principles and values ahead of personal gain

Unwavering commitment to the right actionIs unstoppable and unflappable when on a mission
  • Commits fully, drives hard, and focuses.

  • Stays the course when under pressure

  • Changes course when a better approach emerges

A 360-degree thinkerTakes a systems view – understanding context and interconnectedness of systems when making critical decisions
  • Understands the relevant systems, constraints, near term, long term, and secondary impacts of strategy and decisions

  • Balances interests of multiple stakeholders

  • Commits to continuous learning and building learning systems

  • Understands cross-organizational impact and interconnections across multiple complex systems

  • Thinks in terms of systems, constraints, perceptions, and context when making decisions

Intellectually versatileDevelops interests, expertise, and curiosity beyond the job and organization making them life-long learners.
  • Interested and involved with areas beyond comfort zones

  • Considers ecosystem, including industry-wide activities, political developments, and the international landscape

  • Uses external interests to make contributions

Highly authentic and reflectiveFocuses on individual behaviors to enhance team and organization successes
  • Commits to personal growth and development

  • Helps others to grow and develop

  • Open to feedback and non-defensive

  • Seeks out discussions and feedback

  • Manages emotions

  • Maintains perspective under stress

  • Confronts challenging situations

  • Continually looks for ways to enable the organization to improve its ability to meet its mission efficiently and effectively

Inspires followership/team work with othersConnects with people at all levels of the organization
  • Diffuses conflict without avoiding the sources of conflict

  • Creates psychologically safe spaces and puts people at ease

  • Relates to a broad range of people

  • Connects projects to individual talents and goals

  • Provides resources and removes barriers for followers to succeed

  • Provides feedback to others that supports recipient’s’ growth and development

Innately collaborativeWelcomes collaboration in a quest for novel solutions that serve the highest outcome for all involved
  • Seeks input and values diverse points of view

  • Synthesizes multiple perspectives into new solutions

  • Creates solutions to problems by developing new approaches

  • Understands that input from multiple stakeholders with diverse perspectives is required to achieve the best results

Table 3.

Examples of innovative Mindsets and Behaviors [12, 59].

3.2 Leader-follower framework

To develop as innovative leaders and followers, it is helpful to reflect upon, consider, and continuously develop Character, Competence, Context, and Communication across the four psychosocial levels – Personal, Interpersonal, Team, and Organizational [5, 6, 7].

Character is the “who” of leaders and followers. It includes all aspects of who we are psychologically (self-awareness, honesty, integrity, trustworthiness, reliability, personality, values, biases, leader type, developmental maturity, resilience) and physically (demographics and physical attributes). Self-awareness includes internal self-awareness (i.e., our own awareness of the many aspects of our Character) and external self-awareness (i.e., our awareness of how others including peers, followers, supervisors, stakeholders, friends, strangers, family members, perceive us and all aspects of our Character and the extent to which the perceptions of ourselves and others are consistent or inconsistent). Understanding oneself is essential to innovative and effective leadership.

Competence is the “what” of leadership and followership. It includes what we know and do concerning role-specific knowledge and skills relevant to our specific role or job (e.g., as a parent, administrator, health care professional, attorney, entrepreneur, teacher, carpenter, artist, athlete, etc.). Competence also includes transcendent knowledge and skills relevant to all roles and positions (e.g., critical thinking, problem-solving, motivating others, emotional intelligence, conflict resolution). The leadership and followership behaviors described above are examples of the practice and execution of competence. Leader type, resilience, and developmental maturity all impact ability to exercise the behaviors associated with successful leadership and followership. Competence reflects knowledge, skills, and applications.

Context is the “when” and “where” of leadership and followership. It refers to when and where leadership and followership occurs, physically (i.e., time of day, climate, nutritional state, tiredness), psychologically (i.e., behavioral health, biases), socially (i.e., size of the group, group dynamics), culturally (i.e., cultural values, practices, attitudes, beliefs), and situationally (i.e., what’s happening around us as well as stress). Context is the meta-framework that contains the individual and the organization at any point in time. The leader must consider the entire context and apply Situational Analysis to make decisions while being able to align all elements of individuals and the organization on an ongoing basis. Followers also should be aware of and work to align elements of individuals and the organization to optimize performance.

Communication is the “how” of leadership and followership. It includes sending and receiving information verbally (oral and written) and non-verbally (body language, facial expressions, paralanguage). Communication is separated from competence because it is such a key component of successful leadership and followership behaviors. It is critical to recognize that the purpose of communication is to achieve understanding. Moreover, the key to effective reception of communications as leaders and as followers is embedded in the word “listen”; that is, rearranging the letters spells “silent” – how we should listen to others to truly hear what is being said.

Leadership and followership operate at four psychosocial Levels:

Personal refers to the individual and focuses on self-awareness (internal and external), knowledge and skills appropriate for one’s role, effective communication, and appropriate situational awareness. Unless we understand and work to develop all leadership aspects of ourselves, we will be in no position to be innovative or effective for others. Focusing on personal development is particularly important of early stages of Developmental Maturity.

Interpersonal refers to dyadic relationships, such as leader-follower, supervisor-supervisee, teacher-student, athlete-coach, parent–child, spouse-spouse. Interpersonal focuses on working and communicating effectively and respectfully with other individuals in all situations, understanding the other individual, knowing how one is perceived, and applying appropriate knowledge and skills in relationships with others. It is important to adapt to each individual with whom we interact to optimize innovative leadership and followership.

Team refers to a small group of people with complementary skills who are committed to common goals. Teams build shared values, trust, and cohesiveness, work together, communicate effectively in various situations, understand team dynamics, and respond appropriately. Optimizing team performance and relationships among all members of the team poses a substantial challenge because it requires understanding and interacting with every individual in that group and with all combinations of members of this group.

Organizational refers to large groups, institutions, and systems. It focuses on vision and mission and understanding systems, processes, and various cultures. Innovative and effective leadership at the organizational level requires advanced Development Perspective. In addition, leadership and followership at the organizational level requires consideration of the needs and goals of the large group, system, and culture, rather than on the individual members of the group.

4. Relating the leader-follower framework to the innovative leadership model

Leader Type: It is important to recognize and understand “who” you are, “what” you do, “when and where” you do it, and “how” you do it. “Who” you are, including core values, attitudes, beliefs, and the relevance of your demographics (including age, gender, physical characteristics) that contribute to your experiences and how others respond to you, is Character in a broad sense. “What” you do, including role-specific actions and behaviors as well as transcendent behaviors (including decision making, problem-solving, conflict resolution, emotional intelligence) is Competence. “When and where” you lead (Context) refers to physical, psychological, social, cultural, and situational aspects. “How” you do it focuses on Communication, both sending and receiving. Effective leader style (e.g., authentic, democratic, servant, transactional, transformational) depends and should adapt based on all of these “C” elements. Effective follower style (e.g., along dimensions of commitment to the team and mission, alignment with the leader’s vision) also depends on adapting all four of the “C” elements.

Developmental Maturity: Developmental maturity level influences the breadth of perspective, mindset, meaning-making capability, and focus both as a leader and follower. In the early development stages, the focus is on our own, or “Personal,” growth and expertise. Interactions with other individuals (including team members, peers, supervisors, patients, etc.) and how to optimize those dyadic relationships are “Interpersonal.” As leaders and followers expand and increase their developmental perspectives, they widen their perspectives and interactions and become more effective working with small groups of people who work together for common goals and interact at the “Team” level. Broadening developmental maturity to focus on large groups, organizations, systems, and cultures is required at the “Organizational” level.

Resilience: The extent to which one can adapt to various physical, psychological, socio-cultural, and economic stressors (Context) and maintain focus and performance (i.e., resilience) depends on Character, Competence, and Communication. Resilience also depends on “Context” – physical, psychological, and social environments and factors that are inside and outside us, including physical and psychological well-being, the situations we face, and the extent to which we can adapt, continue, and grow.

Situational Analysis: This fourth element applies who we are (Character), what we do (Competence), and how we do it (Communication) in various situations, influenced by organizational culture and systems. i.e., when and where (Context).

Leadership Behaviors and Mindsets: The fifth element includes our mindsets and actions – that is, what (Competence) and how (Communication) – and are related to who (Character), what (Competence), when and where (Context).

5. Putting it all together

  • Innovative leadership and followership are optimized when elements of the Innovative Leadership Model and the Leader-Follower Framework are understood and applied.

  • Innovative leaders and followers develop internal and external self-awareness of their leader and follower types; stage of developmental maturity; level of resilience; value of situational analysis; leadership and followership behaviors.

  • Innovative leader and follower development depends on the four “C” elements of leadership and the four psychosocial levels of interaction.

  • Innovative leaders and followers develop mindsets, awareness, and maturity; behave in ways that reflect these ways of thinking; and update organizational cultures, systems, and processes to continue evolving. Innovative leaders and followers are open to novel, new, and creative ways to develop themselves and others.

  • Innovative leaders and followers attend to the development or change of themselves, their behaviors, the culture, systems, and processes concurrently and ensure they continually align all elements during ongoing changes.

  • Leaders and followers evolve in maturity stages throughout the course of their careers. They learn to behave in ways that optimize effective outcomes, considering themselves, others, and situations. Each stage of developmental maturity advances the individual’s capacities to deal with VUCA environments.

6. Conclusions

In the book, Innovative leadership for health care [12], we developed a conceptual structure for merging the Innovative Leadership Model and the Leader-Follower Framework to health care. This structure can be applied more broadly to leadership and followership. The section below summarizes the major points of this structure relevant to individuals, teams, and organizations.

6.1 Know thyself

Both the Innovative Leadership Model and the Leader-Follower Framework emphasize the importance of self-awareness. Leader Type refers to core predispositions and attitudes. Character is more extensive than Leader Type and also includes physical and psychological makeup. Understanding our Leader Type and Character allow us to leverage strengths and help guide our development planning. These concepts also can be used to better understand and develop ourselves and others as followers and to recognize that there are times and situations when we each should lead and when we each should follow.

6.2 Develop your capabilities

Developmental Perspective and Maturity refer to psychological and emotional capabilities to influence less defensively, more strategically, more inclusively, and more sustainably. We each need to continually develop our knowledge and skills – Competence includes role-specific knowledge and skills as well as and general knowledge and skills that transcend particular roles. Additionally, Resilience is an ongoing practice that facilitates maintaining balance, energy, and perspective when adapting to challenges while learning, growing, and persisting. Combining advanced developmental maturity, a high degree of competence, and strong resilience allows us to influence our team members (Interpersonal), Teams, Organizations, and communities powerfully, productively, and innovatively.

6.3 Evaluate your influence

Situational Analysis is the process of aligning context and desired results by evaluating the self, actions, systems, and cultures. Context delves into the situation deeper by being aware of the physical, psychological, social, and cultural environments around us. Context occurs across four psychosocial levels: Personal contexts which are psychological and biological aspects; Interpersonal contexts which are dyadic relationships and interactions; Team contexts which are small groups with common goals; and Organizational contexts which include larger groups, institutions, and systems.

6.4 Execute your influence

Leader Behaviors are the observable skills and actions (Competence). One of the most essential behaviors individuals execute to influence outcomes is Communication. Communication includes sending and receiving information, verbally and nonverbally, and must emphasize understanding to contribute optimally to achieve goals.

Combining the Innovative Leadership Model and the Leader-Follower Framework perspectives and their component elements provides new insights for leader and follower development. Understanding and developing each of these elements will optimize effective leadership and followership in a wide range of situations and settings.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.


The opinions and assertions contained herein are the sole ones of the authors and are not to be construed as reflecting the views of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences or the Department of Defense.


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Written By

Neil E. Grunberg, Erin S. Barry, Michael Morrow-Fox and Maureen Metcalf

Submitted: 03 August 2021 Reviewed: 09 August 2021 Published: 05 September 2021