Followers at the time of the COVID-19

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Publish date : April 2020

Written by : Sebastien BAERT

In his recent contribution, the Professor Manfred Kets de Vries from INSEAD asks the following exciting question “Are we stuck with the leaders we deserve?”

Interestingly, the question implies that leaders be the result of what followers do or don’t do. 

It echoes what R. Spillane and J-E. Jouillé (ref. Philosophy of Leadership: The Power of Authority) suggest when they write “we cannot understand leadership as such unless we attend to the reasons that motivate followership.” (2015)

The author of the article argues that the motivations behind the Trump election can be found in “the darker feelings and frustrations within segments of the population [of the USA].” Eventually, those low-morale motives mobilize the corresponding behaviours in the so-called well-suited leader. 

Yesterday, in the French newspaper Le Monde, the journalist Sylvie Kauffmann (“Face au coronavirus, un monde sans leader.” argued that from the COVID-19 crisis emerges a world without leaders. 

To me, such a view disregards how the darker feelings and frustrations of humankind can express themselves through the fabric of leaders. 

I would claim those fears and frustrations (often directed towards others and the uncertainty about the future) are to some extent in any one of us. 

Moreover, history shows that when a significant number of group members calls for a leader based on those motives, the “fabric of leaders” will sooner or later mobilize a leader willing to address them at any cost – often in the course of the war. 

Hence, as the author of the article says, people all over the world must themselves [not only] have the strength to ask, “What types of leaders do we require if we are to move forward?” but also what are their motives behind their choices. 

Would those motives end up mobilize the virtuous qualities in their leaders or the bad ones?    The crisis and the rise of anxiety and suffering created will make those self-reflective stances of any followers not only more challenging but also more critical for our shared future. 

Followers at the time of the COVID-19 - April 2020 - article réalisé par Sebastien BAERT

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