At the Rethinking Followership Conference, Robert Kelley, the seminal writer in the field of followership, presented a schema for thinking about the various aspects of the subject. Each of the categories in his schema are compelling and deserve intense scrutiny by academics and practitioners. But the one that strikes closest to my core interest is the aspect Kelley refers to as "world events" and the question he asks: "Can followership help us unlock these?"
Those who have read my contribution to the field, The Courageous Follower: Standing Up to and for Our Leaders, know that it is this question that drove me to discover and present what I could learn about followership. The defining event of my formative years was becoming aware of the World War II Holocaust. The awareness of the horror of that episode, in a history of mankind fraught with horror, left me with a moral imperative to seek answers. Why do human beings follow purveyors of hate and death and, in doing so, themselves become purveyors? And what, if anything, can be done to fundamentally change this scourge on civilization? These are questions that have also been taken up by other conference contributors, such as Jean Lipman-Blumen and Barbara Kellerman.
Earlier this year, I was invited to present the annual ethics lecture to the Graduate School of Public Accounting at the University of Wisconsin. At the end of the talk, one of the many very bright students asked ...