Follow the Leader?

What is leadership? In his Op-Ed Follow the Leader? Brad Beck examines the importance of demonstration to persuade people to follow instead of the use of force and coercion.

Remember when you were a kid and played the game, “follow the leader?” I grew up in Southern California and on rare occasions when it would rain, we would have recess indoors. I remember being chosen by my grade-school teacher to take the role of leader. The game rules were simple, follow what the leader does or says. I would have the opportunity to demonstrate something, and my classmates would be expected to follow. Sometimes the task was silly. Other times it was stupid. Many times, it was both. The leader’s job was to encourage their classmates to do what the leader was demonstrating.

There is an illuminating story of when Benjamin Franklin wished to interest the people of Philadelphia in street lighting. He didn’t try to persuade them by just talking about it. He hung a beautiful lantern on a long bracket in front of his home. He kept the glass highly polished. Every evening at the approach of dusk, he carefully lit the wick. People saw the light from a distance and when they walked in its light, found that it helped them to avoid sharp stones on the pavement. Others placed lights at their homes, and soon the citizens of Philadelphia recognized the need for street lighting.

The idea of demonstration is a key factor in encouraging an outcome a leader would like to have happen. Once the leader shows the way something can be done, others may follow the leader. In Derek Sivers, “First Follower” video on You Tube, “Leadership Lessons from Dancing Guy”, a viewer can learn more about leadership and making a movement through demonstration and watching what transpires. In the video a so-called “lone nut” is wildly dancing alone at a concert. Another person sees the lone nut and joins in. The lone nut nurtures the follower by demonstrating the movements he is making and encourages the follower to join in to replicate his moves. The lone nut treats his first follower as his equal. Soon others join in the wild dancing, shortly thereafter creating a movement of nuts dancing. This action is public and easy for others to follow. But as the video suggests, leadership is over glorified. Yes, it started with an idea of one lone nut, and often the leader will get the credit for stating something, but what often happens is the first follower learns and amplifies the idea into a movement.

Throughout human history leaders have found it is easier to rule by edict, force, or coercion than by demonstrating or using a persuasive argument. When leaders do not follow what they ask others to do they lose creditability. When leaders do not treat their fellow citizens as equals, they are bound to be ignored and ineffectual. The 2022 Super Bowl was a perfect illustration. When a governor, mayor, celebrities, and sports figures are not wearing a mask due to CCP Virus restrictions at a public gathering, yet school children are mandated to do so, we must ask if this is the equity we are told we need to be mindful of? Are these leaders so much more privileged that they can ignore their own rules while the rest of us must do as they say for “our own good and the good of others?”

When people ride public transportation or fly via commercial airlines, they are still required by edict to wear a face covering or be forced off the bus or a plane. The hypocrisy drips as if it were honey. It has become easy to now understand, after two plus years to flatten the curve, what this has been all about. Power and control. Leaders using the force of government to dictate rules and uproot livelihoods through fear and intimidation. The CCP Virus is real. I know. I had it and it was not a fun experience. For me it was like a bad flu that impacted my lungs and made breathing difficult. Yet I, and millions of others, survived without the experimental drug.

If we are ever to respect our elected leaders once again with admiration and honor for their position, they must start honoring and respecting “We the People” who put them in office. The citizens of this country used to admire the office of president, senator, representative, judge, or local elected representative. Yet their character and motives come into question when they choose to rule rather than govern. If we are ever to play follow the leader again, they must stop doing silly or stupid things like mask mandates, social distancing, and picking winners and losers in the free marketplace. As our 16th president, Abraham Lincoln, reminds us, “No man is good enough to govern another man without that other’s consent.”



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