The "Followership Crisis" -- Are You Ready For It?

An important new book hits the market this month entitled New Giants Rising: How Leaders Can Help People and Companies Grow During the Followership Crisis, and it helps us understand that business growth fueled by labor productivity does not rely on leadership as we’ve come to celebrate it, but on our ability to sustain loyalty and commitment to one another -- a following if you will -- inside and outside our workplaces. When we recognize and understand our historical Followership Cycles, we can begin to restore our workplaces to their lost role as a place to meet the demand of all Americans for a better future.

I spoke with the author, Paul D. Fisher, this past week and asked him: “What exactly is the ‘followership crisis’ and how does it affect the workplace?” Here is his full response:

Followership is the social wealth-building process that creates and sustains a rising middle class through labor productivity. We are in a global social and economic growth crisis because of the slow decline of followership since the 1970s. And the support system we usually use to build it -- media, government, education and institutions of all kind -- have proven themselves unable to help us cope.

As much as they’d like to, our companies are failing to address it too. Business growth is stunted by what we think of as the declining commitment and loyalty of our employees and customers. Our attempts to regenerate followership have been reduced to an endless string of employee engagement programs and hollow content marketing and branding efforts that have provided us no competitive advantage.

To gain that competitive advantage, companies must begin dealing effectively with structural deficits in their social architecture – the systematic means they use to develop purpose, pursue quality, and manage accountability with all their stakeholders. History shows us it has always been the role of business to pull us out of the social tailspin created when higher forms of human need transcend lower ones to help people cope inside their more isolated, robotized and disconnected work places.

For example, Mark Zuckerberg’s recent Facebook post about reforming Facebook by first analyzing “questions of history, civics, political philosophy, media, government and technology” is a surely signal he believes Facebook’s social architecture will not survive into the future without significant modification.

And Warren Buffett’s recent comment on health care -- calling it a “tapeworm on the American economy” (a comment he surely doesn’t personally believe) -- is his attempt to start a national conversation in which society will decide if health care is simply an uncontrolled cost of our manufacturing economy or a model for socially negotiated growth that we should all emulate.

The companies of tomorrow will not grow without reallocating some of the costs of their inclusion and engagement PR campaigns to building the social growth architecture they need to survive in this new environment. And business leaders like Zuckerberg and Buffett are showing us that the first step is to analyze our followership DNA.

Here is a video of Paul discussing the concept:

What do you think of Paul's perspective? Do you you feel it is important for your organization to focus on "social capital"?