Movement versus Leadership: What it takes to be successful at both


Okay, this video was first published in 2010, viewed 2,970,096 times, of which four times by myself, liked 70,000 times and shared endlessly. It became, what we call a viral video, and someone started it. I’m… late.

I love the video, because it doesn’t only show that we should pay less attention to the bands playing at festivals (trivial), but at the people attending the festivals. We can learn plenty on social behaviors and transfer it to market dynamics and leadership. In this case it’s the “lonely nut”, transformed into a leader by his first follower. He then calls his friends and the two eventually become a “movement”, where people rush to belong to the “inner circle”. The bigger the crowd becomes, the more influential it becomes and vice versa. I believe sociologists call this phenomenon “social proof”. So far so good! Take a good idea someone is totally nuts about, attract a follower and the rest is history. As we can see daily evidence from Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

With help from some surprising footage, Derek Sivers explains on TED how movements really get started.

Unfortunately, the video doesn’t show, how our bare chested leader carries on leading. If he’d jump off a cliff, would everyone follow? Probably not, because human beings are not lemmings or ants that simply follow their lemming or ant in front of them. We are individuals. Independent of each other. Maybe, he’d be successful, considering the weather and the exhausting workout (the birth of Zumba???), if he sends out some scouts to find the best stalls with the cheapest drinks in the area. People are more likely to follow him, because he discovered a need he’s created in his movement, and he also has the best information source thanks to his scouts. (Now reverse that back into a business idea, and you might have a sales strategy.)

How will he further succeed as a leader? Let me answer this with another question: Did you read “The Wisdom of Crowds” by James Surowiecki? In a nutshell, it’s trusting many and not a few. Providing that:

  1. your team(s) displays a cognitive diversity (background, education),
  2. the people are independent and don’t feel obliged just to follow everyone else or compromise,
  3. that your organization is decentralised, as it supports independence and specialization.
  4. your rules to keep up order and coherence.

Surowieck, and before him many other scientists and curious people, give evidence and samples, of how much better aggregated and averaged results of “crowds” are in comparison to single guesses or responses even from the smartest.

By the way, I still have a “nut” in my blog, who gave me a first interview on one of her success stories in her career. I wonder, who the key person is to follow her….

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