Follower Power – 2021

The argument that I made in my 2012 book, The End of Leadership, has been reconfirmed, and then reconfirmed yet again. The argument was basically this. That given the trajectory of history, and given the changes in culture and in technology, leaders were losing power and followers were gaining it.  This argument applied then as it does now to every liberal democracy. In fact, it applied then as it does now to every group or organization any place on the planet that is other than under a tyrant’s thumb.

In the month that so far is 2021, there have, for example, been these four significant displays of follower power. Of followers upending, or threatening to, leaders who seem on the surface to hold all the cards.  

  • At great risk to themselves, protesters across Russia have taken to the streets to press against Putin-the-authoritarian to support the heroic renegade, Alexei Navalny.
  • Republicans in the U.S. Senate have resolutely refused to follow their longtime leader, Mitch McConnell. As the New York Times put it, McConnell “carefully nudged open the door for his party to kick Donald J. Trump to the curb, only to find it slammed shut.”
  • Experts have quit their posts rather than be humiliated by those ostensibly in charge. Whether these are former president Trump’s legal advisors or present governor Andrew Cuomo’s medical advisors, at least some subordinates prefer to leave rather than stay if their superiors insist on being stupid and, or, stubborn.
  • Reddit’s WallStreetBets has taken the trend to which I refer to a new arena. In a direct challenge to the Wall Street elite, especially but not exclusively hedge fund managers, ordinary people are upending traditional trading models. As I write silver has surged, suddenly, to its highest price in years not because of Wall Street but because of Main Street. Because of a brigade of day-traders demanding finally to get in on the action.

“The Times They Are a-Changin’”

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