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The absent follower: Identity construction within organisationally assigned leader–follower relations

Schedlitzki, Doris; Edwards, Gareth; Kempster, Steve


Doris Schedlitzki

Gareth Edwards
Professor of Leadership and Community Studies

Steve Kempster


© The Author(s) 2017. This article seeks to add to our understanding of processes of identity construction within organisationally assigned leader–follower relations through an exploration of the role of the absent, feminised follower. We situate our work within critical and psychoanalytic contributions to leader/ship and follower/ship and use Lacan’s writings on identification and lack to illuminate the imaginary, failing nature of identity construction. This aims to challenge the social realist foundations of writing on leader–follower constellations in organisational life. We examine our philosophical discussion through a reflective reading of a workplace example and question the possibility of a subject’s identity construction as a follower. If a subject is unable to identify him/herself as follower, he/she cannot validate others as leaders, rendering the leader–follower relationship not only fragile but phantasmic. We highlight implications of our exploration of the absence of follower/ship and endless, unfulfilled desire for leader/ship for future research and practice.


Schedlitzki, D., Edwards, G., & Kempster, S. (2018). The absent follower: Identity construction within organisationally assigned leader–follower relations. Leadership, 14(4), 483-503.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jan 18, 2017
Online Publication Date Feb 17, 2017
Publication Date Aug 1, 2018
Journal Leadership
Print ISSN 1742-7150
Electronic ISSN 1742-7169
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 14
Issue 4
Pages 483-503
Keywords leader-follower relations, identity construction, identification, lack, unconscious dynamics
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information Additional Information : © 2018. Reprinted by permission of SAGE Publications


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