Land of the Leader No Longer

OK, OK, OK. I know, I know, I know. I’ve been beating this same drum now for at least three years, publicly since the publication of The End of Leadership (2012).

Here to repeat is the point: to obsess about leadership to the exclusion of followership is to turn a blind eye to the 21st century.

Try these on for size, all ripped from the headlines in the last 24 hours.

  • From the Wall Street Journal: “Investors Gain More Clout over Boards.” What’s the story about? It’s about how large investors have been stunningly successful forcing companies to change their bylaws to give shareholders more power to oust directors and shape corporate strategy. In 2014 about 1% of companies had adopted proxy access. Just one year later the number had skyrocketed to 21%. In other words, power in corporate America is being distributed far more widely than previously.
  • From the New York Times: “The Age of Protest.” What’s the column about? It’s about how public protests have become as constant as ubiquitous – people are protesting everything everywhere. Tom Friedman writes that various forces are joining, accelerating to create “an engine of disruption that is stressing strong countries and middle classes and blowing up weak ones, while super-empowering individuals and transforming the nature of work, leadership and government all at once.”
  • From any American media at any hour yet another story about how Donald Trump has torpedoed Republican politics by his charismatic appeal to ordinary American voters. What’s the story about? It’s about resistance to the Republican establishment. It’s about how every time Trump appears in person we vote with our feet wildly to cheer him on. We, we the people, we followers, have driven the Trump phenomenon. Last night he appeared in Pensacola, Florida in the city’s largest stadium. It seats 10,000 and was packed to the rafters with bodies, many of whom had waited long hours to erupt in cheering and clapping every time the man opened his mouth.
  • From any American media at any hour yet another story about how Bernie Sanders has torpedoed Democratic politics by his anti-authority appeal to ordinary American voters. What’s the story about? It’s about resistance to the Democratic establishment. It’s about how a large swath of plain people refused to be cowed by the mainstream narrative, which anointed Hillary Clinton Democratic presidential candidate before the 2016 campaign even got going. It’s about how resistance won out over obedience, at least to the point of leveling the playing field. Here’s how resistance played out in the last 24 to 48 hours. As Clinton’s attacks on Sanders escalated sharply, the public responded by escalating sharply donations to the Sanders campaign.

We’re not in the land of the leader any longer.  We’re in a land in which the leader is one among others.

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