Kelley described four main qualities of effective followers, which include:
- Self-Management: This refers to the ability to think critically, to be in control of one’s actions, and work independently. It is important that followers manage themselves well as leaders are able to delegate tasks to these individuals.
- Commitment: This refers to an individual being committed to the goal, vision, or cause of a group, team, or organization. This is an important quality of followers as it help keep one’s (and other member’s) morale and energy levels high.
- Competence: It is essential that individuals possess the skills and aptitudes necessary to complete the goal or task or the group, team, or organization. Individuals high on this quality often hold skills higher than their average co-worker (or team member). Further, these individuals continue their pursuit of knowledge by upgrading their skills through classes and seminars.
- Courage: Effective followers hold true to their beliefs and maintain and uphold ethical standards, even in the face of dishonest or corrupt superiors (leaders). These individuals are loyal, honest, and importantly, candid with their superiors.
Kelley identified two underlying behavioural dimensions that help identify the difference between followers and non-followers. The first behavioural dimension is whether or not the individual is an independent, critical thinker. The second dimension is whether or not the individual is active or passive. From these dimensions, Kelley has identified five followership patterns, or types of followers:
- The Sheep: These individuals are passive and require external motivation from the leader. These individuals lack commitment and require constant supervision from the leader.
- The Yes-People: These individuals are committed to the leader and the goal (or task) of the organization (or group/team). These conformist individuals do not question the decisions or actions of the leader. Further, yes-people will defend adamantly their leader when faced with opposition from others.
- The Pragmatics: These individuals are not trail-blazers; they will not stand behind controversial or unique ideas until the majority of the group has expressed their support. These individuals often remain in the background of the group.
- The Alienated: These individuals are negative and often attempt to stall or bring the group down by constantly questioning the decisions and actions of the leader. These individuals often view themselves as the rightful leader of the organization and are critical of the leader and fellow group members.
- The Star Followers: These exemplary individuals are positive, active, and independent thinkers. Star followers will not blindly accept the decisions or actions of a leader until they have evaluated them completely. Furthermore, these types of followers can succeed without the presence of a leader.