One of the ideas I tried to convey in The End of Leadership was the end of the expert as aristocrat. The cultural shift to which I point is not only about the diminishment of leaders, but about the diminishment of everyone in a position of any kind of authority. This applies as much to doctors, lawyers and teachers as to presidents and CEOs. It equally applies to anyone who presumes an expertise to which others can reasonably lay claim. For example, in the second decade of the 21st century I can reasonably claim to be as qualified to rate a restaurant as a seasoned restaurant critic. I can even reasonably claim to be something of a medical expert, just by going on line and reading the relevant research. However, I cannot reasonably claim that I am as able to build a space ship as a trained rocket scientist.
There are then some exceptions to the general rule. But not many. In the main my claim on your mind is as legitimate as anyone else’s. This democratization of just about everything was explored in a recent article in the Financial Times titled as is this piece: “Everyone’s a Tastemaker.” The author describes a “far-reaching cultural shift,” with taste having gone from being “the property of the aristocratic few to the province of the democratic many.” So Vogue’s editor and dominance grise, Anna Wintour, still exerts an outsized influence on the latest in fashion. But she is rivaled now by people we’ve never heard of, including young people with no claim to fame other than having equal access to the channels by which fame is made – social media.
Of course the democratization of taste-making is hardly confined to the world of what we wear. It applies equally to what we see and hear, to what we taste and touch, to what we seek out and attempt to avoid, to high art as to low. As the tagline to the FT piece reads, “The power to shape cultural trends is now in the hands of the many instead of a select few.”
No wonder leadership and followership now are different from just a decade or two ago!
*Brendan Lemon, 6/20/15.