In my 2012 book The End of Leadership, was a chapter titled “Technological Imperatives – Losing Control.” The point of the chapter was that information technologies were changing the balance of power between leaders and followers. Social media were distributing information, enabling expression, fostering connection, and inciting action – all of which were enfeebling leaders and empowering followers.
Then vision became part of the equation. Once cameras began to bear witness, on the spot and in real time, followers had leaders, authority figures, in an even tighter vise.
Turns out that under certain circumstances confrontations caught on cameras bestow power on the previously powerless. Two years of violent encounters between black citizens and police officers – caught on camera – changed the dynamic between them.
- In 2014, in Ferguson, Missouri, it was video filmed by a bystander that showed Michael Brown lying in the street after being shot and killed by a police officer.
- In 2014, in Cleveland, Ohio, it was a surveillance video that showed a police officer firing at 12-year old Tamir Rice at close range. Rice later died.
- In 2015, in Pasco, Washington, it was a cellphone video that showed Antonio Zabrano-Montes running away from police officers when they shot him fatally.
- In 2015, in North Charleston, South Carolina, it was again a bystander who filmed an officer shooting Walter Scott in the back as he ran away. Scott was pronounced dead at the scene.
- In 2015, in Prairie View, Texas, it was a dashboard camera that captured a state trooper stopping Sandra Bland for a traffic violation. A confrontation between them escalated. She was arrested – and later found dead in her jail cell.
- In 2015, on the campus of the University of Cincinnati, it was an officer’s body camera that captured him shooting and killing Samuel Dubose during a traffic stop.
- In 2016, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, it was a cellphone video that showed Alton Sterling being tackled and held by police officers. Gunshots were heard, Sterling died at the scene.
- In 2016, in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, a front-seat passenger captured on camera the police shooting of Philandro Castile and streamed live near the entire episode.
Because of new video technologies at least some of what was covert now is overt. Because of new video technologies at least some very old grievances are at long last being addressed. Because of new video technologies at least some without power and influence have acquired some power and influence. Seeing is believing.