Geeking Science: Movements and the Second Follower

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It takes more than one to make a Movement.

It takes more than one to sustain a Movement.

It takes more than one to retain a Movement against the backwash of the status quo.

Why are we having to go through the sixties all over again? Fighting for women’s rights and black rights, only we are calling it #MeToo and #BLM now. Because society doesn’t change quickly, and unless someone is out front leading … and more importantly, other people are following, the movement will dissolve to statis. Inertia will ground it to a halt.

Remember it’s not just important to be a leader, but also be a follower. Supporters keep momentum going.

Really, the world undervalues followers. Everyone wants to be the person everyone is looking to, but that is not how to change the world. The leader is the one who creates a group that everyone then wants to join. A leader must have followers. A movement must have supporters – and they will range broadly from mindless hivemind followers and educated devotees.

Ms. Kellerman (2007) breaks followers into five groups by levels of engagement for business purposes:
1. Isolates – People who standby passively, supporting the status quo by inaction.
2. Bystanders – People who might get involved if their self-interest is invoked, and may show up at things if entertained and fed.
3. Participants – People engaged enough to devote time and money.
4. Activists – Heavily involved people, devoting significant money and energy to the process. Sharing the news and converting others.
5. Diehards – People so involved they cannot move their stance, and may turn on the leadership if they try to steer the ship away from where the diehards have decided it should go. These are both pro-whistle blowers protecting society and self-destructive fanatics destroying things for their ideal.

Examples in USA voters: isolates are non-voters, bystanders are voters who show up to vote only, participants attend some meetings and send money to a party or person and maybe put out a yard sign, activists organize the meetings and make sure handouts are available and go door-to-door and make phone calls, diehards refuse to accept the results of voting if it doesn’t go their way.

Ms. Kellerman’s study described in the Harvard Business review is interesting when focused on through the lens of today (the 2020s), looking back at the hope from fifteen years ago. To put the time-culture in perspective, the article is published 2007 (so most research was likely finished around 2006) and Facebook started in 2004. Around 2006, MySpace was the social media champ. The decentralization of subordinates from managers snowballed during the COVID Zoom era.

A second way to split up movement of leadership and followers is the Initiator. The person with the idea or action. Then First Follower. The person who thinks the “crazy” on their own isn’t as crazy, or maybe, their type of crazy. The Second Follower, well now with three, it’s a group. A movement can snowball from there when VISIBLE.

This video really captures the first crazy to the movement of a dancing mob of activist followers using their energy and time in the moment.

Now not everyone has the energy to be a full activist follower all the time for every cause they want to support. There is only so much “me” to go around, and only so much of “you” at any given moment. It’s okay to step forward and step back as needed.

I wish every movement was as fun and easy as a dance mob.

Instead, the leader-followers often put themselves and their families on the line by raising their hands. Sometimes they might not even comprehend just how big an impact they will play, or how quiet the world will be after they risk everything.

Four years after Brown vs. the Board of Education (1954), a woman was fired because she raised her hand at a PTA meeting for the segregated high school her children attended saying she wanted her children to have better foreign language offerings. She knew the school system had better offerings at the white school, because she worked as a cook there. The hand raise added her to a civil rights lawsuit against the obstructionist actions being taken by leader against the integration of the school system – and the school system did what systems do when the status quo is challenged. It squashed her. (McElhatton, 2018)

She survived, but many don’t.

Being a second follower is no joke.

It’s easy to hide in a mob.

It takes more than one to make a Movement.

It takes huge amounts of time and energy and resources to make lasting long-term change in society.

It takes making habits for the followers and have them do the habits every hour, every day, every year, and convince others to do them too.

“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:31, New King James Version)

Be a leader, be a first follower, be a second follower, be an activist and a diehard.

Civil Rights. Women’s Rights. Equal Rights. #MeToo #BLM #LGBTQ+

Whatever generation you are from – keep these movements going.

Meme created by Erin Penn

See also the Geeking Science: Bystander Effect (February 20, 2018).


eweket. “The Power of the Second Person.” December 5, 2012. – last viewed 12/16/2022.

Kellerman, Barbara. “What Every Leader Needs to Know About Followers.” Harvard Business Review. December 2007. – last viewed 12/16/2022.

Maryville University. “The Evolution of Social Media: How Did It Begin, and Where Could It Go Next?” (undated). – last viewed 12/16/2022.

McElhatton, Jim. “A schools cook’s forgotten civil rights stand.” Alexandria Times. March 22, 2018. – last viewed 12/16/2022.

Schramm, Joe. “Leadership From a Dancing Guy.” YouTube. May 2, 2012. – last viewed 12/16/2022.