If the definition of a leader is followers then you’d have to say that in the 1970s that’s what David Bowie certainly was. He led a generation of followers in music and culture, and continues to do so even today, at 67. Reading in The Guardian an article by John Savage this month he talks of Bowie “Bowie had become a leader but, as he had written, the leader is always deserted by his followers. The trick was to withdraw before they deserted you.“
Having a coffee with my friend Jas Singh the other day we talked of different people we knew who had had an influence on us, for better or for worse. What drives a person to promise much but deliver so little was the theme of our talk. What are the drivers for those leaders who, in the end, only want the temporary thrill of having followers.
Now, I’m certainly not implying this about Bowie! How could I?
I’ve been following his music for almost 40 years and his “abandonment” as it were, has always been for one sub-style to another and us fans have always followed. And he has never disappointed or let us down!
Do we need the security of a leader who promises us much? At a time and place, probably. In the end, we’re better off searching out our own promises and making them happen.
A true leader won’t be leading you up the path just for their own gratification, but rather for a true realisation of something for all. And there’s a good chance that such a genuine leader won’t tell you all that stuff, the candy, that makes you want to follow.
What is your leadership goal? As leader for yourself, or really as leader of others for a bigger purpose?
And what is your followship goal? For someone to do what you aren’t brave enough to do for yourself? Run while you can is my advice.
In the end the fake leader who’s only there for themselves is just like the needy follower. Despite what we might be told about leadership, actually finding the genuine leader will be difficult and we can all expect to be let down at times. There’s unfortunately plenty of fake leaders out there.