I've been wanting to write about this topic since I attended a training day recently on the psychology of interpersonal relationships. You know how there are certain agendas that resonate with you? Well fast forward a week and couple the knowledge I gained from this professional education day plus watching the Taylor Swift documentary on Netflix (which I highly recommend!) and I present to you this weeks blog......
With technology 'taking over', there is an ever-present focus on 'influencers.' The fitness industry is rife with 'influencers' yet sadly not all are positive. I really noticed this after having children (and getting some stretch marks - thanks kids) and seeing all these people on social media having warped and unrealistic body images. They were professing how 'healthy' they were yet for your average person, it was unachievable. Essentially they were encouraging their followers to look like someone who they could never ever be! As a mum, I now consider what my own children see as 'leaders' and how people they look up to can positively or negatively affect their psyche. After attending this training day, I began to look at the impact of the 'follower' rather than the 'influencer.' Now historically, leaders lead and followers follow right? Well we are now understanding the importance of how being a good follower can be more influential than leading. Here's why:
"Good followers support and aid the leader when he or she is doing the right thing and stand up to the leader–having the courage to let the leader know when he or she is doing something wrong or headed in the wrong direction,” (source https://www.fastcompany.com/3029840/5-ways-being-a-good-follower-makes-you-a-better-leader). If you think about this from a practical perspective, a leader will have no traction if they post something on social media and no one comments or 'likes.' BUT the first person to comment in the thread is actually the most courageous as they have had the confidence to prove or refute what the influencer was saying. Do you notice that once that first person comments, it opens the flood gates for other followers to also voice their opinion.? In doing so, the first follower almost becomes a leader. So who is more powerful here, the leader or the follower???
Now here's how good followers can be so powerful (adapted from Barbara Kellerman from Harvard University):
Awareness: Good followers learn to read people and understand what upsets and motivates them.
Diplomacy: Good followers learn how to get along with those who have differences while not ignoring those differences.
Courage: Being a good follower requires strength and conviction to stand up to leaders when you don't believe in what they are advocating.
Collaboration: Good followers understand how to work with people to bring out the best in them.
Critical thinking: In order to be a good follower you need to be able to think for yourself.
Interestingly, these qualities are all traits of a good leader too. Hence there is a crossover - a good leader is also a good follower.
So how does Taylor Swift come in to the equation? I didn't know a lot about Taylor until I watched the Netflix documentary "Miss Americana." In her younger years, Taylor was a conformist who was always doing what she thought people wanted her to do (essentially 'following'). She never voiced her political opinion and was always trying to make people happy. As she matured and gained life experience, she realised that she had the power to change public opinion through her music and her tweets. She was very passionate about human rights and so endorsed 2 democrats in her home state of Tennessee for the upcoming election in 2018. Now she had NEVER voiced any political opinion and was known for being apolitical so this was a huge risk for her! BUT she has over 112 million followers on instagram - imagine the reach she could get through her posts! Well she got more than 65,000 people to register to vote in the 24 hour period following her post! It was huge and she states she felt "200 pounds lighter" when she saw the effect she had on her home state. Interestingly Donald Trumps response was "I like Taylor Swift's music 25% less." Lets not open that can of worms though............. Lets consider though, the power Taylor Swift's followers had on the subject. Now the candidates she advocated for didn't win the election, however the change she inspired was quite huge. She empowered people to research their candidates and understand their agenda before voting. She empowered more people than ever to register to vote. She empowered her huge following by putting herself out there publicly when she had never done so before. The relationship was symbiotic - by having a large following and empowering her followers, Taylor's views were perpetuated. By being a good leader, her followers felt empowered to make a change and had the courage to stand up for their 'leader.'
So what to take away? Strive to be a good follower by empowering good leaders. Have the courage to speak up if you don't believe in what the leader is saying. Create a community by being socially aware of others and emporing other followers to be heard. By being a good follower, you may inadvertantly become a leader. It is also important to remember that by following, people you are advocating what they do. If you don't believe in them - don't follow them! Following doesn't mean you have to be a sheep... :) I often have a social media 'cleanse' and get rid of toxic leaders - trust me you'll feel better! PS - how good is Celeste Barber to follow!!!