Publication Date

Fall 2014


In 1954, Dwight D. Eisenhower, then 34th President of the United States, defined leadership as "... the art of getting someone else to do something that you want done because he wants to do it, not because your position of power can compel him to do it, or your position of authority." No one disputes he was well-versed on the subject, seeing also that he had been Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe during the Second World War. In 1933, Mary Parker Follett, a management scholar far ahead of her time, had likewise underscored the role of followers: "Their part is not merely to follow, they have a very active part to play and that is to keep the leader in control of a situation. Let us not think that we are either leaders or - nothing of much importance."

Alas, with the advent of The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, insights such as these were blanked by the craze for captains of industry. Today, 30-40 years into the leadership industry, corporate shelves groan under the weight of handbooks on leadership theory and practice, all meaning to say leadership is a serious professional and personal responsibility. In spite of that, some such as Barbara Kellerman see a historical trajectory from autocracy to democracy that, with fast-paced cultural change, Baby Boomer replacement, and new information and communications technology, may soon end the leadership industry’s leader-centrism. The increasingly collective wisdom is that leadership happens in purposeful relationships in culture and context, not in individuals.


Suggested Citation
Serrat, O. (2014). Take me to your followers. Manila: Asian Development Bank.

Required Publisher's Statement
This article was first published by the Asian Development Bank (