Harnessing Followership to Empower Graduate Medical Education Trainees

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Followership is the leadership practiced by individuals who are in positions of responsibility without authority, whereby they exert their influence to help execute the vision of their leaders. The central principle of followership is a commitment to actively support leaders and organizations. Without effective followers, organizations flounder, decision-making lies only at the top echelons, and plans are either incompletely executed or not executed at all. In this perspective, we introduce the concept of followership as an important part of leadership development. We explore pedagogical methods for teaching graduate medical education (GME) trainees the followership tenets of service, assuming responsibility, and challenging leadership as necessary skills to achieve partnership with their leaders. We argue that developing followership skills, specifically partnering skills, can help trainees excel as leaders and attendings. GME trainees who practice effective followership take initiative by co-managing their patients with their attendings. By displaying both willingness to serve and challenge their leaders, they add to the success of the whole unit. Followership is a skill that can be learned. Learners should reflect on their own followership style and identify areas for flexibility and growth. Those seeking to become partners should solicit explicit feedback, observe their role models, and seek opportunities to role play situations that highlight the difficulties of followership. Partnership allows for development of a space between leaders and followers to experience empathy, reward ownership, and grow leaders.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)23821205221096380
JournalJournal of medical education and curricular development
StatePublished - 2022


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