Original Research

An archival review of preferred methods for theory building in follower research

Joseph A. Feldman
South African Journal of Economic and Management Sciences | Vol 21, No 1 | a1582 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajems.v21i1.1582 | © 2018 Joseph A. Feldman | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 30 April 2016 | Published: 11 June 2018

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Joseph A. Feldman, Graduate School of Business Leadership, University of South Africa, South Africa

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Aim: The purpose of this research was to delineate methodological trends in articles published both internationally and locally that will reveal the extent of new theory building.


Setting: The research strategy and methodology examined trends in theory building over a 52-year period (1962–2014).


Method: An archival review of the published literature was conducted and each article was examined to identify the general research method employed. The chi-square test was used to determine whether there is a significant difference between the expected frequencies and the observed frequencies in one or more of four categories.


Results: The archival data indicate that articles published over the past 52 years in major international and South African journals are skewed towards quantitative and conceptual research. This implies that researchers in leadership studies employed qualitative and mixed methodologies in their work less often than quantitative and conceptual methodologies.


Conclusion: This trend has implications for the development of leadership-followership research. Research methods should be used with mindfulness, with qualitative methods being used to observe social and human problems, followed by quantitative methods to test inductively formulated followership theories. It is particularly important, in the context of diverse cultures, to note that local attempts to formulate authentic theory development will remain difficult and unsuccessful until endogenous management systems are established and institutionalised. This is very important for scholars who believe that an affinity for qualitative methodology affords the opportunity for emic research rather than merely for testing theories and constructs that may not capture local followership phenomena.


follower perceptions; follower attributions; follower motivation; leadership behaviour; contextual leadership-followership factors; follower attributes


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