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Art & Culture, Business & Politics, Digital Media & Communications, Economics

Follow the Leader or the Followers?

What makes an exceptional leader? I was watching the widespread, viral video on Todd Akin, Senate candidate in Missouri, Republican Party give his two cents on rape from a ‘doctor’s perspective’ saying that women’s bodies can reject a ‘legitimate rape.’

While most upstanding citizens are baffled by this absurd comment, I began contemplating the traits of his followers. A leader cannot solely exist without its followers. Leaders such as Adolf Hitler, Vlad Tepes, Idi Amin Dada, or Joseph Stalin could not generate their ideas and execute their plans unless they had people willing to follow in their ventures.

Weber’s great contemporary Georg Simmel was even more explicit, suggesting that followers have about as much influence on their leaders as leaders have on their followers. Leaders cannot maintain authority, he wrote, unless followers are prepared to believe in that authority (John Gardner).

For most, it’s difficult to understand how someone like Todd Akin could have any followers especially after making such an invalid and offensive comment. On the other hand, because of his identity as pro-life and affiliation with the Republican Party, it may be easier for those with similar views to overlook and excuse his comment in order to focus on the bigger picture. Presumably, leaders designate the structural relationship with its follower; however, to what degree do followers also direct the relational pathway?

The communication style is a critical distinguishing factor in whether the leader’s message will be remembered and endorsed. Flauto (1994) determined that every leadership dimension (charisma, individual consideration, intellectual stimulation) was positively correlated with the communication competence construct.  Implicit in this assumption is the belief that leader’s communication competence is a prerequisite for effective leadership (Barge, 1994) (Matveev & Lvina).

This two-way, interpersonal communications model whereby the leader communicates the message to its audience, and through the leader’s ability to communicate effectively, the audience chooses whether or not to follow and develop a relationship with the leader. The leader must appeal to the needs of its audience through a multitude of communicative strategies and channels dependent on the context whether it be religious, social, political, or economical. The communication strategies in relation to leadership management vary in usage and execution. I will provide a more detailed overview of this in my next post.

As always – stay tuned. In the meantime, be both a leader and follower.



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