Global Followership – A Response to Global Leadership Crises

The year 2020 passed as a year we all, the entire population of the world, will remember for the rest of our lives. Generations to come will remember this year not just as a year that the whole world went to lockdown due to a global pandemic (Covid-19) but also as the year that totally changed how we work and interact as a global community. As many influential people around the globe such as billionaires, politicians, strategists, journalist and academicians repeatedly said many times on TV and on digital or social media platforms the world, as we know it has come to an end with the new global pandemic that resulted to death of more than 1000000 people globally. People in more than 200 countries were locked in their houses for some part or entire year and waited for this pandemic to come to an end. While people are waiting, governments around the world and global organizations were trying to calculate the damage of this pandemic to the world’s economy and in the global economic system. As there are many foreseeable results of this pandemic, there are many conspiracy scenarios traveled throughout the web that created uncertainty and fear. Some of these conspiracy theories stemmed from the ugly realities we witnessed throughout the year. An example I could remind you is the fight between countries on personal protective equipment (PPE). We witnessed powerful countries literally stealing/looting PPEs from airports, leaving millions of health professionals in many “not so powerful” countries without protection to fight with the deadly virus. We also witnessed presidents playing the blame game and discriminating against other nations to make political gains. We also witnessed millions of helpless people getting infected in developing countries due to lack of strong health care systems. In fact, even the most powerful and developed countries also didn’t stand a chance against the virus and experienced a health care crisis. According to WHO  (World Health Organization) the US is the most hit country of the world followed by India and Brazil. We as humanity simply failed to respond to the global pandemic, thanks to our global leaders or leading global organizations.

Was this the only crisis we had in the year of 2020? Of course not, as the Covid-19 continue to spread throughout the world, police brutality in the US sparked another global social unrest or I should say a ‘call for justice and end of systemic racism’. Unlawful killing of George Floyd, an American from African origin, by a white police officer, did not just start the biggest social justice protests in the history of the US but in many countries around the world. We witnessed that in the UK protestors took down the statue of slave traders Edward Colston and Robert Milligan. This was one of the most memorable moments of the protests. The protests quickly spread all over Europe and over the globe. A quick note, I still cannot understand why we the people of the so-called modern and free world had to wait until today to remove those statues. Anyway, even though I have some ideas about the answer I just don’t want to be a brutal critique of our biased collective consciousness and love of ignorance. However another explanation for this is the deficit of global leadership that could face the issue head on so many years ago and end this long-lasting non-sense.

As if the global pandemic and call for justice and fight against systemic racism were not enough for people to deal with, during 2020 we also witnessed a major hit on Democracy in the world’s most powerful country. Yes, the United States of America went through a short dark period when the president Donald Trump ordered his followers to invade and loot the US Capitol. In simple words, he did not want to leave the office and acted as a kid who doesn’t want to accept defeat. He demonstrated toxic leadership and so many of his followers followed him, blindly. However, did all of his followers show blind obedience? Thankfully, the answer to this question was no. Many people from the right wing, including the Vice President Mike Pence showed courage and stopped a public unrest by, again, courageously going against their leader’s call for anarchy and condemned Trump’s statements. As a result of these courageous acts, looters left the capitol and a couple weeks later Trump left the office in peace. The whole world witnessed this mass, and toxic leadership and toxic followership by Trump and his supporters as well as the courage of a few to defend democracy.

In summary, the list of global crises for social, political and economical issues continued to get bigger and bigger by the months in the year of 2020. While we were still trying to cope with global issues in hand such as; gender inequality, incarceration of millions of Uyghur people in China, world wide refugee crisis, global humanitarian crisis in war torn countries (I am sure many of us still remember the baby boy Aylan, who drawn in Aegean sea while trying escape from Syrian war with his family and washed up to the western shores of Turkey), and ill practices such as child labor, unfair treatment of their people or moving to global tax havens by so many global corporations in variety of sectors for more profit, the year of 2020 brought new and severe challenges. Of course, as the challenges emerged many people started to fight to eradicate these issues or at least stabilize the patient (that is our world).

As you read the issues I mentioned I am sure you realized and recall that the people who were in the front lines of the fight against all these old and new global crisis were not global leaders who hold the power and ability to create sound policies to make things right for people but global followers from all around the world, who challenge the status quo and demand positive change for better, just, and safer world. While the status quo wanted to stand still and do nothing, basically, these brave and courageous individuals, organizations both government and non government, and countries came together as a collective mind and kept up the fight to save democracy as we saw in US elections, to fight against the virus as we saw in the case of Turkey who freely distributed PPE to more than 60 countries including US, UK and Israel, to fight with systemic racism and injustice as we saw around the globe lead by people in US and UK, to fight against global corporations’ ill practices as we saw in the case of Google getting a big sum fine by European Commission for unethical practices.

The commonality of the above acts was ‘demand for solution’ came from global followers who were courageously standing up against the status quo in each context with the intention to enhance the quality of the lives for people. The appropriate action taken by global followers to demand solutions for these global issues were protests in one case, adjustment of regulations in another case or fining a powerful global organization for wrongdoing, in the other. What does this tell us? As many scholars and practitioners see it leadership is a process, where leaders and followers work together to achieve a common goal or purpose in a given context. Yes, we know that the role of followers didn’t seem very important for so long and we, in most cases, were obsessed with the idea that change should be coming from leadership. However the events that took place in 2020 showed us that followers are the key players who become so powerful when they act collectively in order to influence leaders’ decisions during leadership processes.

While global leadership still holds its power as the decision making function of our globalized systems in social, governmental, and organizational contexts, and rightfully so due to responsibility of the position, in the year 2020 we witnessed that global followership also has power to contribute to the positive change we are all seeking or should be seeking while tackling with some of the global issues we face. We as humanity need the same collective action on a larger scale from global followers from all around the world to demonstrate the power we hold as a collective to solve today’s global crisis as well as creating a prosperous future for generations to come. This starts with each of us taking responsibility, showing courage to speak up and being part of the collective body that is becoming a global follower for good.

Abdurrahim Hocagil

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