“Followers look a the leader; the opposite does not happen as regularly or intensely.”
The above is from Good Boss, Bad Boss. It’s a quote by anthropologists that study group dynamics among chimpanzees, gorillas, and baboons. These species are unique in that they have a set power structure. They have alpha males and leaders among their ranks.
Anthropologists studying these groups noticed something unique:
Studies of baboon troops show that a typical member glances at the alpha male every twenty or thirty seconds.
Followers revere the leader of their group, assembling cues on how they should think, feel, and act. Psychologist Susan Fiske elaborates on why this might be the case:
In an effort to predict and possibly influence what is going to happen to them, people gather information about those with power.
This makes sense. If someone has even a small stake in your future, it’s in your best interest to understand how they think and respond in specific situations.
This wouldn’t be a problem if leaders were always conscious it was happening and acted accordingly. But, that’s not always the case. There’s plenty of evidence that power warps the awareness, thoughts, and attitudes of those that have it*.
The overarching themes are laid out in Good Boss, Bad Boss. Leaders tend to:
- become more focused on their own needs and wants
- become less focused on others’ needs, wants, and actions
- act as if written and unwritten rules others are expected to follow don’t apply to them
The “toxic tandem” is this: Leaders are under intense scrutiny from those around them yet their position often results in self-serving behavior.