Up to now, Meg Whitman, former CEO of eBay, has been the perfect Republican citizen. After failing in her own campaign for governor of California (2010), she stayed staunchly aligned with the Republican party, remained close to Mitt Romney (the 2012 Republican presidential nominee), and continued actively to fund-raise for the party in which she believed.
Yesterday, however, she broke ranks. Rather than remaining a rigid follower, she become a good follower. She refused any longer to follow in the footsteps of top elected Republican officials – including Paul Ryan (Speaker of the House), Mitch McConnell (Senate Majority Leader), and John McCain (Senator, 2008 Republican candidate for president, and war hero). Instead she left the fold, at least for now. Whitman declared Donald Trump a “dishonest demagogue,” and announced she would “vote for Hillary.” Moreover, she put her money where her mouth is. Whitman made what was described as a “substantial” contribution to Clinton’s campaign.
Leadership experts pay scant attention to followership. The Leadership Industry is forever touting its capacity to teach good leadership, while ignoring nearly entirely the critical importance of good followership. The critical importance of followers who support good leaders – but who refuse to support bad leaders.
Whitman’s loud, clear parting of the ways with the Republican leadership class is a vivid reminder of the importance of exemplary followership. She sets a splendid example for those among us so pusillanimous we avoid speaking truth to power.