Date of Conferral
With a culture focused on leadership, the purpose in this study was to explore untested assumptions about followers and their being ignored as independent productive actors in the workplace. The lived experience of followers and their impact on the success or failure of organizations during periods of absent leadership was explored via 4 independent situations. A qualitative, phenomenological research design based primarily on the theoretical framework of Moustakas and the research design of Patton guided the study. The 3 key research questions were explored with regard to followers during periods of absent leadership: how they respond, what actions they take to fill the void, and the purpose of their actions and reactions. The qualitative data were coded and centered around 4 themes: (a) productivity, (b) morale, (c) direction, and (d) interpersonal behavior during periods of absent leadership. The results indicated that followers did not descend into chaos without leaders, thus refuting a primary conjecture about their assumed workplace behavior. Instead, emergent consensual self-managing teams arose, and this research resulted in a proposed organization-member exchange (OMX) construct for further research to account for the environmental context as a potential substitute to the traditional leader-follower relationship. Social change may occur by increasing efficiencies if additional training is provided for followers to prepare themselves for absent leadership and for leaders to realize the full potential of followers. Attempts at developing self-managed groups to fully utilize the leadership potential might serve to negate negative effects of the departure of a designated leader and promote employee wellbeing as contributing and valued members of the organization.