Why Good Followership is Even More Important Now in a Post-Truth World


Why Good Followership is Even More Important Now in a Post-Truth World

by Matthew Moore

Online Manager

It is common knowledge that the individuals who voted for recent era-defining events such as Brexit and the election of Donald Trump, were not told the truth by the people who benefited from those same events. This has been called “Post-Truth”, which has been named word of 2016 by Oxford Dictionaries and is defined as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief”.

This has created many challenges for the philosophy we at IDG advocate. For example, we believe in and promote ethical leadership, but how can an ethical leader operate in a world where emotions and beliefs are more important than facts?

Similarly, how can our faith in being able to measure and quantify change within an organisation still have relevance when it would appear to be more beneficial to craft a reality that is appealing and inspiring than it is to report the truth? Is it more important for a leader to have charisma than it is for them to have the tools to succeed, and if so how does that sit with our belief that it is more important for a leader to be a good follower?

Trump Farage Brexit Post-Truth Fake News

Despite the infamous Access Hollywood interviews and repeated claims of fake news that were actually true, Donald Trump was elected President of the USA; the claims made on the infamous Brexit Bus and by Boris Johnson were instrumental in the UK voting to leave the EU – the day after which Nigel Farage admitted they were false

This is because charisma is important, but not in the way most people think. Recent events have shown that it is those leaders who engage their followers with a ‘socialized charisma’ – the sense that the leader shares the social identity of his or her followers – that matters more. This has been defined as the “Social Identity Theory for Leaders” [1], where leadership is given by the followers as a whole instead of imposed upon them.

It defines the effectiveness of a leader as being tied to their social identity, that the ‘prototypicality’ of a leader – the fact that they exemplify a social group – is more important than the actual content of the words they say.

The socially effective leader will be seen as:

  • Being one of us
  • Doing it for us
  • Creating a sense of us
  • Making us important

The leader’s role then becomes ‘shaping social identities so that the leader and his or her proposals are seen as the concrete manifestation of group beliefs and values’.[2]

Therefore, it can be seen that the followers legitimize the leader. This is also true in a different way in the post-truth era when what might start off as a lie now becomes a kind of truth if it is posted enough times by enough people on social media.

Followership is not a new concept. At IDG it has been one of our three core tenets – along with leadership and partnership – for 15 years. It has, however, been woefully undervalued and misunderstood. Now it would seem that its importance and effectiveness is beginning to become clear on a world political stage.

Would you like to find out more about what we do – for free?

We are running a complimentary 2-day taster programme at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in April. Find out more here


[1] – A Social Identity Theory of Leadership, Michael A. Hogg, August 1, 2001

[2] – The New Psychology of Leadership, S. Alexander Haslem, Stepehn Reicher, Michael J, Platow. 2011. http://documents.routledge-interactive.s3.amazonaws.com/9781841696102/Sample_CHPT_9781841696102.pdf

Share this blog:

[getsocial app=”sharing_bar”]