Saturday, July 14, 2012

David Brooks Explains the Why of “The Follower Problem”

Just one month and three days ago, on June 11, 2012, David Brooks was complaining in the New York Times that Americans are not sheep like enough in an op-ed titled The Follower Problem, chastising us mere American citizens for our lack of respect for our so-called leaders with words such as these.

I don’t know if America has a leadership problem; it certainly has a followership problem. Vast majorities of Americans don’t trust their institutions. That’s not mostly because our institutions perform much worse than they did in 1925 and 1955, when they were widely trusted. It’s mostly because more people are cynical and like to pretend that they are better than everything else around them. Vanity has more to do with rising distrust than anything else…

To have good leaders you have to have good followers — able to recognize just authority, admire it, be grateful for it and emulate it. Those skills are required for good monument building, too. (bold by ed.)

While on June 11, 2012 Brooks did not seem to know, let alone understand, if America had a leadership problem, on July 12, 2012 Brooks appears to have had an epiphany that America indeed does have a leadership problem, and states so in another New York Times op-ed titled Why Our Elites Stink.

Yet, as this meritocratic elite has taken over institutions, trust in them has plummeted. It’s not even clear that the brainy elite is doing a better job of running them than the old boys’ network. Would we say that Wall Street is working better now than it did 60 years ago? Or government? The system is more just, but the outcomes are mixed. The meritocracy has not fulfilled its promise.

Brooks had it backwards in his op-ed The Follower Problem, putting the cart before the horse when he states, “To have good leaders you have to have good followers…”  No.  To have good followers, you must have good leaders, whether they are elite, or not.  Brooks is part of the elite problem himself.

Posted by John Venlet on 07/14 at 08:43 AM
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