No, I will not follow your lead.

When should a follower no longer choose to follow a leader? One possible answer: When the implicit contract is broken. And man, does this make me think of the queer and/or kink community and consent! Jackson and Parry mention implicit contracts on page 49- but I don’t think they go far enough. They mention the “renegotiation” that needs to happen, and the example is Shackleton and the crew of the Endurance getting home after the ship was crushed by ice. There can be actual contracts involved in expeditions. What about this is implicit? The desire to stay alive? I want to explore the idea of implicit contracts and how they are expressed thru the social structures we have, which in turn creates community.  Or maybe community informs social structure-I’m not sure yet which way that flows. Likely it flows both ways. Regardless of which creates which- there are some implicit contracts which should be broken, but what of the danger to do so?

Jackson and Parry end up talking about the challenges that followers face to just speak truth to power, but yet quote Ira Challeff “An effective follower is supportive, not passive!” (pg 52) and further down the page, they quote Oc and Bashshur to say “find safety in numbers”. I agree with Challeff, and with Oc and Bashsur that those ideas, respectively, are parts of followership. And it isn’t fair to say that Jackson and Parry are trying to answer the question with those quotes- but they do show a parallel concern when they say that “Followers can exert greater (and safer) influence over leaders when they work together.” (pg 52).

I know there have been times I’ve continued to follow a course of (in)action, that to the outside perspective could very well look like I was following the lead of a morally bankrupt “leader” who was reinforcing community/social norms, and I have gone along because it wasn’t safe for me to disagree. The desire to stay alive made me complicit. Much of what I’ve read for “follower centered” styles feels like it doesn’t go far enough to examine where and how the leader’s power comes from, and consequences to the followers for deviating from the flock. Though the article “How did that happen? Making sense of the 2016 US presidential election result through the lens of the ‘leadership moment’ certainly does explore the context and hence, social/community mores, it doesn’t address consequences to followers for not following. This isn’t a criticism of the piece- it would be unwieldy to add to what Ladkin already addresses in the article.

Fatal submissiveness … André Holland as Othello and Jessica Warbeck as Desdemona. Photograph: Simon Annand

So, how do I answer “When should a follower no longer follow the leader?”  When the fear for your soul as a result of your inaction or action is greater than the fear of bodily harm, which is what Emilia showed me last week when I saw her denounce her husband Iago on the stage at the Globe, and why the original caption for the photo of Desdemona and Othello is “Fatal Submissiveness” .  Which is what I saw when Dr Blasey Ford testified this week. Which is what I have done.

The book Leading Quietly by Joseph L. Badaraccoo, Jr has been a wonderful “fit” for me. It didn’t come as much of a surprise when I got to the end and in the appendix Badaraccoo explains he began to think about quiet leadership from the context of discussing works of literature. As a consequence for the times I’ve been complicit, as I have moved into leadership opportunities, I have preferred to prioritize a facilitator style of leadership-which can be highly effective in some places, and allows me to check in and gain consensus. It’s a valid leadership style- but it also echoes what is needed to be an effective follower. And yet, I think I can do better. I’d like to bring a quiet style of leadership to more of my life, and to do so, I need to break it down and learn it, not just do it from instinct and trial and error.

And I’ll keep reading literature and finding examples to follow- like Naismith and Henry V from the previous blog post- and examples to learn what not to do- like Iago and Lear. And finding hope in the quiet leadership of others.

Identity and Leadership: how do they shape each other?

A person in a leadership position is more than their identity as leader. But how does the identity of the person intertwine and influence their leadership style?

How does it work with Henry V (at least, how Shakespeare portrayed him)? Henry identifies as king, and within that identity, he believes in the divine right of kings. He has the might of G-d behind him, so the requests he puts forward are G-d-blessed. One of the more famous speeches (St Crispin’s Day Speech) includes the line “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers”. The larger speech is actually a bribe- or transactional leadership, depending on how you slice it. When Henry says “This day shall gentle his condition” he is offering to ennoble the men who fight. But even now, reading it out loud 500 years later- there is charisma that comes thru- via word choice and cadence. And though I’ve just identified points of transactional and charismatic leadership, I’d argue that Henry V was actually most centered in transformational leadership style because he’s asking the men to fight against amazing odds, truly moving followers to “accomplish more than what is usually expected of them” (Northouse, p. 164)

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What shapes identity?

Captain Cordelia Naismith (as written by Lois McMaster Bujold) is a scary, scary woman. (For all that she is a fictional character, she’s one of my greatest heroes and I say “scary” in all honor.) She uses the word “command”, in the following passage, but I equate it with leadership. She’s just been taken prisoner by Vorkosigan, a man with an intergalactic reputation for brutality. The ensign in the reference has just received a brain injury from Vorkosigan. “I’m still a commander, she told herself sharply; I have a command. You serve me still, ensign, although you cannot now serve even yourself. . . .

The thought seemed a thread to some great insight, but it melted in her grasp, and she slept.” (Cordelia’s Honor, Chapter 1, ebook, no page #.)

In this passage, Naismith has gone thru immense shifts, and clings to her identity as “leader” (commander) to get thru the next round of challenges.  In this case, the leadership style- or even simply the duty that comes with being a leader and not setting that duty down- influenced the identity more than the other way around.

Both Henry and Naismith are asking for duty well above and beyond what is usually expected of a follower, which, to me, was the one point that differentiated transformational leadership from the other kinds of leader-centered perspectives. However, I wonder what I’ll think of these same passages after I learn about follower-centered perspectives. Until next time-