Leaders and Followers

Here’s the assumption: Leaders, generically, are the people who are out in front, who are in some way taking charge, and setting tone, trend and direction. In terms of following trends, they are the people most of us tend to follow. We listen to what they think is cool and interesting, and then go look for ourselves (or even take their word for it).

Followers are the rest of us. Generally, everyone who listens to what the high-profile leader says and gives it some credibility.

I’m starting to question that assumption. Does the advent of a community-based (aka more collaborative, contributory) world around us change how we lead and follow? And does it change how perceptions are set?

Let me go back to the Scoble talk last week. He said that he gets bombarded with lots and lots of new and allegedly cool ideas every day. Not surprising. But he pays no attention to any of them…here’s the key…unless his friends (those people whose opinions he trusts) tell him it’s worth a look.

My first thought was that’s completely the opposite of me. Taking the difference in fame out of the equation (can I do that?), even when people look to me to opine on the new, cool thing, I still prefer to do the work to discover that cool thing and form my own opinion (which you can listen to or not…) than to rely on others to come to the collective opinion that it’s worth my time.

Both approaches are perfectly good, and both work for different kinds of people.

But doesn’t the first one (Scoble’s approach) sound like a follower? Someone who is listening to those who are more famous, higher profile, or to whom we attribute some “inside” knowledge? But isn’t Scoble just such a high-profile insider?

So this raises the question: Who is the thought-leader? is it the person with the new idea? or is it the person who relies on the wisdom of the crowd to raise the good idea? Is it the inventor or the reporter?

I can’t offer a more definitive answer right now other than the oft-quoted “I know it when I see it,” but when you are looking for the trend-setters in your market, don’t count out the followers.

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