Date of Award

August 2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Mechanical Engineering

Committee Member

Joshua D. Summers

Committee Member

Marissa L. Shuffler

Committee Member

Capt. Richard J. Watkins


The purpose of this research is to develop an understanding of followership behaviors in engineering design team situations by studying leadership behaviors. While leadership in engineering design teams has been studied from role, function or behavior, and individual characteristic perspectives, no studies appear to examine (follower) helping behavior in the context of an engineering design team. Understanding this behavior can lead to intervention strategies that might be employed to improve team dynamics and performance. To this end, a theoretical framework of follower behavior is defined based on a review of “helping behavior” from the literature. Characteristics of follower helping behavior include exhibiting citizenship, voluntary, and extra-role behaviors while not upsetting the status-quo. A model is developed that links leadership style, follower character/mindset, social exchange relationships, influence tactics, group dynamics, and follower performance. The central behavior studied here is helping behavior. The literature-based framework reviewed is primarily based on studies employing survey data, with only a single study using observational studies. Therefore, data presented from a previous protocol study is re-examined in search of patterns of conversions of followers to leaders through behavior modeling. In the previous study, eight teams of four graduate engineering students were tasked with generating a function model for a design prompt. These teams were video recorded, and their behaviors coded for seven leadership actions. Of the eight design teams previously studied, there were 325 total leadership behaviors coded. A follower-to-leader transition pattern was defined where a follower in one behavior immediately exhibited leadership behavior in the next coded activity. Of the activities coded, 131 (40.3%) possible follower helping actions have been identified. These are examined further to determine whether there is a correlation between the initial leadership behavior type and the immediately occurring follower-leader leadership behavior type. Patterns are also sought to determine how often the initial leader also changes to a follower in the subsequent activity, termed a follower-leader. This study shows that there are follower patterns that are found in design activities. Further, these patterns are related back to the (follower) helping behavior model that is derived from the literature, specifically the influence tactics that include: inspirational appeals, consultation, and supplication; as well as social exchange relationships of leader-member exchange (LMX), team-member exchange (TMX), and affect-based trust. Finally, this study provides suggestive evidence of patterns to motivate future systematic study of followership in engineering design.



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