Followers Say They Want Leaders with Integrity, But Do They?


  • Melvin Holder, Ed.D.


Followers, Palm Beach Atlantic University, Melvin Holder ED.D., Integrity, Credibility, Honesty, Trustworthiness


Followers consistently indicate they desire to follow leaders who have demonstrated the characteristics of integrity, honesty, trustworthiness, and credibility (Kirkpatrick & Locke, 1991; Kouzes & Posner, 2003; Simons, 2002). There may be inconsistencies in the expressed desire of followers, since they may be willing to follow leaders knowing the leaders lack these characteristics or have compromised these personal characteristics in their behavior and actions. It has been argued that individuals who are prone to following untrustworthy leaders tend to be compelled by psychological needs and fears that have been delineated as a need for reassuring authority figures; a need for security and certainty; a need to feel chosen or special; a need for human community; a fear of ostracism, isolation, and social death; and a fear of personal powerlessness to challenge a bad leader (Lipman-Blumen, 2005). This has been exemplified in business, religious, and governmental organizations with catastrophic consequences. If followers are aware of these propensities, better assessments of leaders and improved responses to leaders lacking integrity could result.