Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format



Doctor of Philosophy




Robertson, Jennifer L.

2nd Supervisor

Benson, Alex J.



Leadership and followership are inherently interdependent, yet research has primarily focused on the unilateral influence of leaders. To advance a more balanced perspective and highlight how followers can positively contribute to the leadership process, I conceptualized and validated a measure of transformational followership. Transformational followership represents leaders’ perceptions of effective followership tendencies that enable productive, generative, and motivating engagements with and for their leader. After conducting a comprehensive literature review of both followership and leadership research, I created an initial item pool which was then subjected to rigorous testing across three distinct phases. Phase 1 leveraged feedback from organizational leaders (Think Aloud Protocol; N = 8) and academics (Expert Panel Review; N = 8) to assess the content validity of this new construct. Phase 2 focused on establishing the structural validity of the transformational followership scale using two separate samples of leaders (N = 295 and N = 327) recruited online through Prolific Academic. Finally, Phase 3 entailed a prospective design whereby leaders filled out the transformational followership scale with reference to one of their followers at three separate timepoints (N = 207). This third study assessed the temporal consistency of the new measure, aided in establishing an initial nomological network (i.e., follower proactivity, leader-member exchange, and leader attitudes), and tested several models positioning transformational followership as a mediator in the relation between follower behaviour and leader attitudes toward their own work. Cumulatively, these three phases of scale validation helped identify a three-factor model of transformational followership and provided strong evidence for the measurement quality of the new scale. Further, the results of Study 3 demonstrated that transformational followership acts as a link from follower proactivity to leader engagement and satisfaction. This work supports the advancement of followership research by demonstrating that followers can positively influence their leaders and provides a psychometrically valid scale that can be used in future research aiming to capture the nature and impact of that influence.

Summary for Lay Audience

Stories of leadership have captured our interest and permeated popular culture for decades. If asked to think of a famous leader, images of spellbinding orators and innovative entrepreneurs flood to the surface, and most people can easily identify a leader who has inspired them over the years. Unfortunately, followers do not receive the same recognition and their influence is grossly underestimated compared to leaders. This oversight is regrettable, as acts of both leading and following are needed for the success of any organization or team. To remedy this and achieve a more balanced perspective, the purpose of this research is to examine the positive influence of followers on leaders by conceptualizing and developing a new measure of effective followership called transformational followership.

Transformational followership represents leaders’ perceptions of followership tendencies that enable productive, generative, and motivating engagements with and for their leader. To capture this phenomenon in a scale, I first conducted a comprehensive review of both the leadership and followership literature and wrote out an initial item set of 51 items. Then, I subjected this initial item pool to a series of tests that were designed to assess the degree to which the new scale adequately, accurately, and consistently captures transformational followership. With each test, items that were not strongly representative of the transformational followership concept or did not perform as intended were either revised or removed. Across three phases, the results of these tests provided robust evidence for the quality of the transformational followership measure. Additionally, the final study demonstrated that transformational followership is related to leadership outcomes such as leaders’ engagement and job satisfaction. These results support the idea that having followers who are more transformational can contribute to more positive attitudes towards leaders’ own work.

Overall, this work advances the narrative that followers are capable of influencing their leaders and enhancing their experiences at work. Further, by developing a valid, reliable scale of transformational followership, this research provides a tool for researchers and practitioners to continue to evaluate the positive impact of followers on their leaders and organizations.