When the Followers Lead

So much has been written on what effective leaders do and do not do.

Much of what has been written is pie-in-the-sky. Recently I even read something about the selflessness of leaders, which I thought was science fiction or humour.

Leadership is not only impacted by the personality of the leader. 

Leadership is also very much impacted by unrealistic and dangerous expectations of followers. These expectations forge leaders’ behaviour, in the same way that a tweet (as opposed to a fact) impacts the response of many current politicians.

In this brief post, I want to point out the most salient dangerous expectations that followers have from leaders and how the leaders REACT to these expectations and themselves follow the mob.

  • Resolve complex issues of what constitutes moral behaviour
  • Mitigate ambiguity when it is impossible to do so
  • Provide “meaning” for random events
  • Recreate a sense of preserving greatness or uniqueness that perhaps never was
  • Perfuming pigs
  • Focusing hatred externally

And I can go on and on.

We tend to focus on what leaders do to garner influence. But leaders are often led, and kowtow to the desires of the followers for their own ego needs. This type of leadership is very very common. 

I think it is time to talk a bit about the ways followers create dysfunctional leadership with misplaced expectations. And to put all this in a proper cultural perspective.

Oh yes, the cultural context of leadership. How heretic this is for traditional OD which assumes that everyone wants or needs democracy. Egypt, Yemen, Eye-raq, Afghanistan, Russia, China.

But that is another story, widely addressed in other blog posts and articles of mine.

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