Bosses should stop encouraging employees to become leaders - and teach them how to be followers instead.

According to the latest advice for businesses, there is no point in sending staff on leadership courses, as current wisdom seems to dictate.

This is because there are only a few bosses in any one company - but lots of workers who need to be good at carrying out instructions to get the graft done.

Among the those calling for a change in practice is Professor Birgit Schyns of Durham University Business School.

Advertisement

She said there were too many offices filled with people who act as if they are in charge but few who are actually doing the work.

"Traditional research into leadership has focused on how potential leaders can be trained," she explained.

"This approach ignores the role of the follower.

"Most employees won't end up as leaders. Even those who are leaders have to be followers at some point, either early in their career or even when they are the boss and dealing with those higher up the food chain. Every boss has a boss. Followership is something companies should think about."

She said qualities needed by good office followers include the ability to get on with the job in hand without needing to be told what to do.

But they should also not be afraid to question their managers to find out what they need to know.

And followers should never sulk or wallow in self-pity, and should accept that sometimes employees just need to do what they are told.

Professor Schyns argued that there should be more respect for workers rather than those who run the company.

Advertisement

She told the Times: "Followers are the ones with the expertise. Good followers should not just be doing what they are told.

"They should be alerting the leader to flaws in the decision-making, pointing out that this is not going to work for their customers. They have a lot of important information that the leader needs to know."

She added: "A lot of us go into jobs because we like the nature of the work. Of course it is flattering to be promoted but you don't get to do the work any more and a lot of people are not very good managers.

"They would be happier it they stayed where they are."