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Allan's Philosophy Podcast

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Philosophy on Facebook # 28 - The Leader/Follower Relationship

Hey guys! I'm excited to have my first official recommended topic! This topic was suggested by Jonathan Witt and he asked is it better to be a feared ruler/leader/government official or a loved one? I wanted to get a little bit more in depth and look at the leaders and the relationship that they have with their followers. Leaders and followers at their core are very similar but I think the main difference between a leader and a follower is that leaders are the ones willing to act on their beliefs while followers will push for their values but under the leadership of someone else. There are times leaders are put into positions of power where they were just at the right place right time to be put into a leadership position.

Leaders and their followers have a unique relationship because they are one cohesive body supposedly working for the same goals. They must work together in order to achieve the results they desire. Most of the times leaders gain support for their causes by appealing to others through things like logos ethos and pathos. A strong way to attract followers is by appealing to their emotions and relating to their situations and have a common vision on how to improve their lifestyles. Not all leaders gain voluntary followers as sometimes the followers are put into compromising situations where they must follow the orders and commands of others. One prominent example is through the use of blackmail where a person leads and commands another through the use of infringing material. Others for the most part follow leaders because they abide by the same principles that the leader does and share a common goal or something to that effect with said leader. But in the cases with governments, at least with the United States, we must be under the leadership of the candidate who gained the most popular support regardless of if we see eye to eye with their political viewpoints. The way the United States political system is set up, it is supposed to be that the most popular candidate will be elected to sovereignty essentially setting them up to be supported by at least some of their followers because if they didn’t have any support then they most likely wouldn’t have gotten elected into a leadership position.

In regards to if it is better to be loved or feared as a ruler, I believe it is completely subjective to the person, how they try to acquire power, and how they exert it on their followers. The epitome of a feared ruler is a demagogues who utilized tactics like lying, extortion, bribery, and propaganda to gain leverage over those who they rule. They also are fans of threats and they usually aren't empty as a feared leader might condemn those who oppose to their rule as an example to show what they are capable of. Demagogues who can effectively execute fear tactics have the potential to end up very powerful because people are easily coaxed into doing things if there are negative outcomes by not following the leader. Threatening one's very existence by saying you're going to murder them is a very effective way in getting someone to follow your orders. This type of ruling does have some potential negative impacts on the leader themselves by giving their followers a negative morale. If their followers amass enough people with mentalities inclined towards mutiny, then you will most likely have the beginnings of a revolt on your hands. If your followers gain the courage to oppress you and no longer follow you then you have essentially lost all power and have failed in respects of a leader.

If you are adored by your audience you have the amazing ability of appealing to their emotions and wants with a positive light. They are on the complete opposite spectrum from demagogues and are beloved as popular public figures. They have mastered the arts of compromise and have found a way to keep all their followers happy without committing any acts that would go against any one of those who support them. There are some disadvantages with being a loved leader because it is very hard to appease to the wills of every single follower. While ruling, you will most likely upset some followers through your actions and possibly cause them to overthrow you because in their eyes you aren't effectively doing your job. In general, leaders who try to be adored start out more popular during the beginnings of their terms than in the end because people are excited and have hope for that leader. Down the road however, that leader may do things that upset the public and cause their approval rating to decrease. In the case of the U.S.A. government, Obama has the extremely difficult job of trying to get the public to follow his views without upsetting them too much. Being a loved leader is beneficial because it shows your followers that you care for their needs and when you can abide by your followers views they will be much happier and you will probably prosper more than if you were feared.

I believe that these tactics don't dictate if you are a good leader or not but are just determining factors on what you do as a leader. I do however believe that your outlook on how to lead does play a role in what you are capable as a leader. If you try to appeal to your followers but always do things to upset them, then you probably won't be an effective leader. In the case of demagogues, you can have terrible values but still effectively control and leader others. In the case of Hitler, he had a TERRIBLE values and views on what to do as a leader but he effectively carried them out because he could lead his people to do his bidding. Leaders are good at assembling their followers and inspire them into working for a common cause or goal. I do believe that society as a whole is better when the leader appeases to the public just like what our government is trying to do. People who try to be popular with their followers lead and use their power in the name of others, while those who are feared only have to serve themselves. If a leader tries to abide to their followers values then they can better relate to them and then find ways to become a better leader. I believe that a leader has a certain obligation to their followers and if they have all the power without regards for its effect on their followers, then they can basically do whatever they want without any restrictions. As with many other topics, I also believe that there isn't one right or wrong way to go about ruling. If you rule for yourself then your one opinion on how to rule doesn’t represent the world and is more likely to be wrong then if you were to rule in the name of others who in turn have a much broader sense of what is right and wrong. What is right and wrong is determined by the current status of the world and your environment. In times like these, it would be wrong to build a whole bunch of nuclear weapons and it would probably be a good idea to be more concerned with fixing the economy. What makes a good leader is really dependent upon a variety of factors that is very complicated to understand. I think it is very hard to judge if a leader will be good beforehand but I think if you are dedicated in your goals and the environment at the time of your leadership position is optimal to those goals, then you are definitely capable of both great and/or terrible things.

-Allan Nicholas

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