4th July 2007 | Draft
Framing the interplay of (mis)leadership and (mis)followership
challenges and responsibilities
- / -
Annex 2 of Emergence
of a Global Misleadership Council: misleading as vital to governance
of the future? (2007)
Leaders vs Followers
Misleadership and misfollowership as characteristics of faith-based governance?
Image makeovers for misleaders
Principles of misleadership
Misleadership and misfollowership training for potential
Introduction (reproduced from main paper)
The challenges of the future are widely acknowledged to be complex. Whilst
people, including potential leaders, are increasingly well informed, it is
not clear that information alone is sufficient to respond effectively to
the foreseen challenges and to those that may emerge unexpectedly (cf Nassim
Nicholas Taleb, The
Black Swan: the impact of the highly improbable, 2007).
The need for appropriate leadership is also widely acknowledged -- as are
controversial assessments of global leadership in respect of intervention
in Iraq and of non-intervention in regions where wholesale massacre continues
unabated on the largest scale since World War II. Such strategic decisions
may be interpreted as skillful leadership or misleadership otherwise to be
characterized as incompetence. However it is also the case that strategic
leadership calls for the ability to mislead opponents in order to outmaneuver
them, notably through surprise. Where followers cannot be fully informed
of the strategy in order to maintain surprise, or where they cannot be expected
to fully comprehend a complex strategy dependent on a wide range of factors,
leadership also requires skillful misleadership of followers.
The following argument explores the interplay between such dimensions of
leadership and misleadership. It is not an apology for misleadership and
seeks to avoid entrapment in a binary logic defining leadership as necessarily
"good" and misleadership as necessarily "bad". It seeks
to raise the question of what is to be learnt from the different framings
of the Iraq debacle -- for leaders and for followers. Will the capacity to
respond be more appropriate on the next occasion?
This exploration develops arguments of an earlier paper (Sustainability
through the Dynamics of Strategic Dilemmas -- in the light of the coherence
and visual form of the Mandelbrot set, 2005) and its annexes (Psycho-social
Significance of the Mandelbrot Set: a sustainable boundary between chaos
and order, 2005; Imagination,
Resolution, Emergence, Realization and Embodiment: iterative comprehension
ordered via the dynamics of the Mandelbrot set, 2005). It also points
to the significance of traditional strategic insights from Asian cultures.
In the light of the above factors, the purpose of the paper is to frame
the question of whether the present times are seeing the emergence of what
amounts to a Global Misleadership Council. Whether or not this is the case,
how should appropriate misleadership be cultivated, and distinguished
that of a more incompetent or malevolent form? What then are the complementary
considerations for misfollowership under different forms of misleadership?
Leaders vs Followers
Whilst much can be achieved through leadership, there are dangers in "delegating"
to leaders functions which should be carried out by others (as the debate
on subsidiarity has demonstrated in the European Union). For then the leadership
engages in activities which distract from less tangible functions, and
the ability to perform the more tangible functions becomes valued more
than the skills in the less tangible ones. These lead to a confusion of
leadership with competence and followership with incompetence.
In the fluid social structures of the future, the challenge will be to work
with shifting patterns of assertion and denial, of leadership and followership.
It is how the many forms of assertion and denial are configured together
which offers a way forward, not the tendency to deplore denial as the favoured
scapegoat for the 1990s. The assertion-denial complementarity needs to be
reframed as a resource whose paradoxical qualities define the door to a genuinely
Sustainable communities, emerging through processes of self-organization,
may turn out to based on complex forms of co-dependency, defined by many
complementary forms of assertion and denial, as phases in a dynamic learning
process. When does such co-dependency impede sustainability as opposed to
enabling it? In such a community functions of leading and following
may need to be constantly redistributed, in relation to assertion and denial,
in ways that remain to be understood.
Figure 10: Dynamic relationships
between Leaders and Followers
Future of Leadership: Reframing the unknown (1994)
and Denial (Equivocation)
Assertion nor Denial
asserts but Leaders neither assert nor deny
denies but Leaders neither assert nor deny
equivocates but Leaders neither assert nor deny
Public and Leaders neither assert nor deny
and Denial (Equivocation)
asserts but Leaders equivocate
denies whilst Leaders equivocate
Leaders and Public equivocate
equivocate but Public neither asserts nor denies
asserts Leaders deny
and Public deny
deny whilst Public equivocates
deny but Public neither asserts nor denies
and Public agree
assert Public denies
assert but Public equivocates
assert but Public neither asserts nor denies
The many possibilities of this shifting pattern are suggested by Table 1.
The cells of the table are clustered into four zones each of which includes
those at a lower level (so that Zone III includes behaviour characteristic
of Zones I and II):
- "Consensual": Here consensus is emphasized, as in any
fire-fighting situation. There is no cause for reservations or denial.
In the form of declarations and agreements, this mode is the grail of many
international initiatives, notably those which are most simplistic or fanatical.
Efforts at a global ethic aspire to this condition.
- "Schizoid": This is exemplified by situations in which
emphasis is placed on agreement in public debate (as in a conference plenary)
with reservations and denials being expressed "in the corridors"
(or possibly the reverse). This is more clearly recognized in Eastern cultures
where there is as much sensitivity to what is said as to what is not said
(of the Japanese distinction between tatemae and honne, between
the explicitly stated and the unspoken realities). It leads to conditions
in which people say one thing and do something different -- typical of
the more cynical at many international conferences. There is little ability
to manage both assertion and denial simultaneously as Peter Scott-Morgan
(1994) demonstrates in the case of vain efforts to implement rational strategies
whilst neglecting the unwritten rules of any organization. There is a particular
problem when both leaders and followers are in denial.
- "Inconsistent": With the ability in this zone to work
flexibly and simultaneously with both assertion and denial, from which
moments of assertion or denial may emerge as appropriate. This can easily
take the form of equivocation and fickleness, or be seen as such. There
is a particular problem when both leaders and followers equivocate.
- "Transcendent": In this zone there is an ability to
avoid being trapped by either assertion or denial, or by the vacillation
between them characteristic of Zone III. From the perspective of this zone
("neither confirming nor denying"), there is greater ability
to navigate as appropriate between the options presented by Zones I, II
and III. Especially challenging is the condition in which both leaders
and followers are able to avoid either assertion or denial. It is the desirability
of this condition which is "hidden"
within the widespread obsession with simplistic forms of consensus characterized
by Zone I. This zone captures some of the richness associated with David
Bohm's explicate and implicate orders interrelated through a holomovement.
The zones correspond to a progression from the necessarily simplistic consensus
of Zone I through various higher orders of consensus in which denial is embodied
in some way. Clearly of major importance is the extent to which leaders and
followers are "in phase" within any one zone, as reflected by the
cells on the diagonal. The out of phase conditions typical of most challenges
to governance (and confidence artistry) are represented through cells off
the diagonal as well as to a richer range of social problems. In contrast,
in the responses typical of Zones I or II, consensus tends to be very narrowly
focused and much of wider significance is ignored.
It is appropriate to note that Eastern philosophies of governance, typified
by the / Ching, would articulate the pattern of Table I in greater
detail to give 64 cells. Indeed its coding system (of hexagrams of complete
and broken lines) can be seen as a representation of a dynamic system of
complementary combinations of light and shadow (assertion and denial) whereby
ruler and people can be related. The progression to higher orders of consensus,
through which possibilities of integrating the shadow are embodied, can also
be related to the much-cited sequence of "ox- herding" pictures
central to Zen Buddhism. The Eastern attitude would however downplay any
such linear progress in favour of recognition of the complementarity of the
roles played by all conditions represented in Table I or in the / Ching pattern.
This is exemplified by Chuang Tzu:
"When man understands only one of a pair of opposites, or
concentrates only on a partial aspect of being, then clear expression becomes
muddied by mere word play, affirming this one aspect and denying all the
rest....The wise man therefore sees that on both sides of every argument
there is both right and wrong. "
Misleadership and misfollowership as characteristics of faith-based governance?
The dynamics of question and response on this matter has been the subject
of comment over centuries. The issue has been epitomized by Karl Marx's alleged
maxim that religion is the "opium
of the people" -- perhaps now to be framed as "weapons of mass
Contrary views are currently evident in the debate over "intelligent
and the teaching of evolution.
Faith-based governance is intimately related to the pattern of crusades
and jihads -- and the many current faith-based conflicts around the world.
It inspires suicide bombing and legitimates cluster bombing. It has been
central to the belief in weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and the manipulation
of evidence in support of their purported existence.
A number of current studies document what might be caricatured as a direct
correlation between religious belief and lying -- whether by leaders or by
followers (cf Richard Dawkins, The
God Delusion, 2006; Christopher Hitchens, God is not Great:
how religion poisons everything, 2007).
The effect of such critiques on believers is marginal and in no way affects
their commitment or the emergence of new patterns of faith-based governance
Challenge of Faith-based Governance, 2003). Indeed useful arguments
may be made in support of the extent to which the efficacy of any preferred
alternative is itself but another belief meriting analogous criticism (with
regard to their "priesthoods", manipulation of evidence, groupthink,
demonization of dissidents, complicity in malfeasance,
Image makeovers for misleaders
The phenomenon of misleadership is accompanied by a variety of consistent
processes through which such misleadership can be denied, concealed or "reframed",
whether by followers, dissidents or opponents.
- Ministerial immunity: It is standard practice for
leaders of a country to be granted immunity against charges of malfeasance
during the execution of their duties during the period of their mandate.
Only exceptionally are steps taken to impeach them, as in the celebrated
cases of Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton. Many leaders are accused of having
abused their position of power -- or are indicted for so doing (as in
such prominent cases as Jacques
Chirac, Silvio Berlusconi,
Kohl). A surprising
proportion of elected representatives have some form of criminal record
-- one of the preoccupations of Global
- Diplomatic immunity: It is also widespread practice,
formalized in international treaties, to accord diplomatic immunity to
representatives of foreign governments, whether with regard to trivial
matters (such as parking violations or on criminal charges).
- Legacy preoccupations and "clearing one's name":
Irrespective of formal accusations, many leaders are much concerned to
frame their activities after the fact through institutions, foundations,
"good works", libraries or commissioned biographies
- Suppression of criticism: Increasingly it is expected
that legislation may preclude many forms of published criticism (notably
on the web), especially of leaders and former leaders.
- Awards: Reception of awards and participation in bodies
recognizing "good works" are among the devices to enhance an otherwise
tainted image. Awards have been most controversially made -- or "negotiated"
-- in the case of some individuals considered to be deeply implicated in
some forms of misleadership (as with the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to Henry
Kissinger in 1973 and to Yasser
Arafat in 1994).
- Conversion: In an era of faith-based governance, religious
conversion (and associated absolution of sins) is a common mechanism through
which a line may be drawn under the past to enable the person to move on.
This is a notable possibility in the case of evangelical Christians, irrespective
of their participation in questionable military or other initiatives (cf
Opportunities of the Twice Born: reflections on systemic camouflage of
mass deception, 2004).
- Jimmy Swaggart: The case of this prominent televangelist,
caught consorting with a prostitute in 1988 is examined by Michael
J. Giuliano (Thrice Born:
the rhetorical comeback of Jimmy Swaggart,
By analyzing his sermons, letters, and
magazine articles Giuliano seeks to discover the rationale that Swaggart
offered his doctrinal community to justify the claim, that he was worthy
of forgiveness and continued support -- namely that he was not a
fault for his actions, that his actions could be accurately be blamed
on other individuals and the entire ordeal would lead to an improved
Swaggart. Giuliano demonstrates that such rhetorical strategies
are not unique to Swaggart, but are common to the defence made by any
celebrity faced with the fact of scandal.
- Tony Blair: A contrasting example is offered in the
case of his conversion to Catholicism following 10 years of office in
which (through deception) he notably committed forces into military action
in which numerous civilian lives were lost. It might be said that (like
George Bush) he placed his belief in God above all other considerations,
including such loss of life. Conversion ensures absolution for any sins
of misleadership (namely use of "white
spirit" as a deeper cleansing agent in contrast
to the "white wash" of the "spin" for which his government
was renowned!). It should be noted that the Catholic Church offers the
further possibility of posthumous, fast-track canonization,
especially if it can be demonstrated that he performed miracles
and suffered martyrdom.
Clearly his role in conducting crusades against "infidels"
is not in question. Web sources note numerous references to his miracles,
notably in Northern Ireland (and despite recognized complicity of his
forces in dubious acts). Ironically his new position, with an
office in Jerusalem, greatly increases his vulnerability to what may
well then be described as martyrdom.
Principles of misleadership
In the light of the above arguments and examples, the question is how the
principles of misleadership are to be understood -- whether intended,
experienced or interpreted as "appropriate" or "inappropriate". Inappropriate
forms may of course be subsequently understood as having triggered valued
learnings -- then making them appropriate? What are the sources of any relevant
"principles"? Possibilities include:
- Political misleadership
possibly associated with misrepresentation
There is a considerable literature on the art of deception in politics, notably
dating from the work of Niccolò Machiavelli (The
Prince, 1532). Examples inlcude: (Michel Chossudovsky, Political
Deception: The Missing Link behind 9-11, Global Research,
2002; Al Gore, Broken
Promises and Political Deception, New York
4 August, 2002; Stephen Wechsler, The Pragmatics of Political Deception,
- News management and spin
- Negative campaigning
- Demonising opponenents and dissidents
- Military misleadership
There is necessarily an extensive literature on the art of deception in
military strategy and its use in different wars -- from the earliest times
(Jon Latimer, Deception in War, Overlook
Press, 2001; Mark Johnson and Jessica Meyeraan, Military
Deception: hiding the real, showing the fake, USAF Joint Forces
For example the US Joint
Doctrine for Military Deception (1996 / 2006) provides "fundamental
guidance and principles for the planning and execution
of military deception at the combatant
command and/or subordinate joint force level".
deception understood as actions executed to deliberately mislead
adversary military decisionmakers as to friendly military capabilities,
intentions, and operations, thereby causing the adversary to take
specific actions (or inactions) that will contribute to the accomplishment
of the friendly mission. The five categories distinguished are: strategic
military deception, operational military deception, tactical
military deception, service military deception, military
deception in support of operations security. The use of decoys is
notable in this process -- misleading others into making a false
- Deceiving allies and subordinates
- Business misleadership
Although a degree of deception is traditionally held to be part of the
art of doing business, some constraints are typically articulated (Lynn
Sharp Paine and Christopher M. Bruner, Deception
in Business: a legal perspective, Harvard Business,
12 July 2005; Alexander Hill, Dishonesty
and Deception in Business,
- Deceiving the competition
- Deceiving partners and stockholders
- Deceiving employees
- Deceiving customers
- Misrepresentation in media and advertising:
There are many studies on these phenomena (cf Misleading
Media, 2003). For example, On the proposed takeover of the Wall
Street Journal by the Murdoch
empire, Professor of Economics at Princeton
University, Paul Krugman (The
New York Times, 29 June 2007) comments:
- With the deliberate or inadvertent purpose of mis-selling
- With the purpose of discrediting competing products and services
- Mr. Murdoch's people
rarely make flatly false claims. Instead, they usually convey misinformation
- When all else fails, Mr. Murdoch's news organizations simply
stop covering inconvenient subjects.
- If Mr. Murdoch does acquire The Journal, it will be a dark
day for America's news media -- and American democracy. If there
were any justice in the world, Mr. Murdoch, who did more than anyone
in the news business to mislead this country into an unjustified, disastrous
war, would be a discredited outcast. Instead, he's expanding
- Misleadership in statistics. There is extensive commentary
on misleading use of socio-economic data (Robert Korn, Misleading
Statistics). Intergovernmental organizations are notably susceptible
to pressures from their member governments to mislead (cf China
Pressured World Bank to Cut Deadly Pollution Figures, 2007;
Q and A: Eurostat
scandal, BBC, 25 September 2003)
- Misleadership in any form of education, such as to elicit enlightenment
through learning experiences based on inappropriate assumptions
Claims could readily be made by the leaders of sects, cults and religions
that processes held by others to be manipulative are designed to facilitate
- Misleadership in flirtation and courtship:
A considerable amount of attention is devoted to this theme (Truth
About Deception: an honest look at deception, love and romance;
Related to Love, Deception, and Romance; Sources
and References on Deception, Infidelity, Love and Romance). Mario
F. Heilmann (Social
evolution and social influence: selfishness, deception, self-deception)
suggests that "the large expense of time in courtship is due to the
arms race between deception and attempts to foil deception". It is
ironic that a process so fundamental to social relationships, and the
perpetuation of the species, should be based on deception and misleading
the other -- and framed as pleasurable.
- Leading people on in the much-celebrated wiles of courtship
- Role of pretence (ignoring the other when attracted) and the use
of cosmetics to create a misleading impression
- Promises, including those made to be broken
Misleadership and misfollowership training for potential
Given the strong case, so widely made, for leadership training and enhancing
capacity to detect and promote those with natural leadership qualities,
it would seem appropriate to explore the need for a corresponding degree
of training in followership. This should of course include development of
skills to recognize and respond to misleadership and tendencies to mislead.
Examples of such training include:
- education in critical thinking as a means of responding to misleading
- a focus on "deprogramming" in response to misleading initiatives by religious
groups, sects, and other ideological programmes
There is less formal focus on the needs for training to respond appropriately:
- misleading advertising in support of mis-selling
- misleading news management to negatively frame opposing viewpoints and
to positively frame supporting viewpoints
It is possible that newly developed brain scan technology, capable of detecting
intentions and dispositions before they manifest in practice, could be used
to guard against the emergence of (mis)leaders before they acquire
positions of undue power (Ian Sample, The
Brain Scan that can Read People's Intentions, Guardian,
9 February 2007).
Currently the use of such technology has only been envisaged
in relation to interrogation of those suspected of criminal or terrorist
tendencies -- possibly extended to dissidence of any kind. But, for the benefit
of followers, there may be a case for its use on any seeking election or
nomination to positions of authority -- whether in governments, international
institutions or in religious movements -- especially given the degree of
corruption now evident in international decision making. Such possibilities
raise the question of how the scandal leading to resignation of the European
Commission (or that in Eurostat) might have been avoided by use of such techniques.
Clearly leaders dependent on followers could well see the advantage of such
techniques when hiring or promoting people in positions of confidence --
as an extension of the current use of polygraph testing on people with high
levels of security clearance.
Of potentially greater significance
is the need for training of followers of one worldview in:
- misfollowership, understood in the particular sense of ceasing to
follow leaders acting inappropriately. Arguably this is the missing training
that might have proved to be historically significant in the case of Adolf
Eichmann and of Kofi Annan. It is the much debated issue of when and how
the requirements of leadership should be set aside. The issue is much debated
with regard to guidance for whistleblowing.
More generally it relates to the issue of how dissidence should be expressed,
especially now that it may be framed within anti-terrorist legislation
and action legitimated against extremism of any form (Norms
in the Global Struggle against Extremism "rooting for" normalization
out" extremism? 2005). In the more extreme case it might
be extended to include the case of training offered by some governments
to the dissident forces within other countries.
- misleadership, understood in the particular sense of how followers of
one movement of opinion may be persuaded by deception (in their best interest)
to adopt another worldview. There is a range of precedents from infiltration
of the organizations articulating views considered inappropriate, through
various form of proselytism,
fishing as practiced by the Children
of God (1974 until 1987).