Thursday, June 19, 2008

Followership - what makes people follow?

Firstly sorry about the break in posts. One of my coachees in the city yesterday asked if I'd stopped the blog. No is the answer. The credit crunch has created a very busy time for me, especially in the area of emotional resilience and helping people perform better regardless of fear, nerves and anxieties. So followership....

Why do people follow someone? There is an old African proverb that says:

If you go for a walk in the bush and after a short time you look around and the people of your village are also going for a walk along the same path then you are a leader. If you go for a walk in the bush and after a short time you look around and there is no one behind you then you are just going for a walk.
What is it that makes people want to follow someone?

There are roughly for reasons why people follow another person:
  1. Fear - They fear the consequences of not following. This is usually fear of retribution. Losing their job for example. Fear can be effective usually only in the short term. The moment the followers can either escape or bring the leader down they often will. Fear of the leader or leader's power often breeds weak loyalty and low levels of commitment.
  2. Hope - They hope that this person will solve their problem or problems. This usually occurs where the group are in some form of difficulty, facing risk or ambiguity and can't see any other option. Hope usually springs from fear however in this case they don't fear the leader or the leader's power, rather they fear the problem and hope that the leader will solve the problem they can't.
  3. Faith - This usually occurs because the followers trust the leader. They have faith in the leader and the leader's abilities to deliver. The difference between hope and faith is that in the former they don't want the situation as it is now and don't know how to solve it and just hope the leader does. With faith they have trust in the leader even if they can't quite see where they are going, which is why it is often called blind faith.
  4. Positive emotional and cognitive coherence (Hearts and minds)- When people agree with the leaders representation of the current situation and are captivated by a clear vision of the future (direction) the leader creates and they can know what they need to do, then they tend not only to follow willingly
    but to collude with the leader in creating a new order. This reason for following operates at both a positive cognitive and a positive emotional level. This 'makes sense', is often an exciting logic and it 'feels good', it 'feels' like we can make a difference.
When there is both positive emotional and cognitive (intellectual) coherence everything fits together and creates a strong motivation. In situations like this it is almost immaterial who the leader is. If they have created the coherence in people, then those people will follow their thoughts and more importantly their feelings.

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