Just Following Orders: An Unreliable Justification

We are taught via textbooks, seminars, and casual conversations that leaders tell followers what to do and followers do as they are told (i.e., leaders lead and followers follow). Some followers adhere to the advice that informs when leaders say jump the follower asks how high. Although many followers have been rewarded for simply asking how high, some have been punished for following their leader’s orders. Attempting to justify actions by simply saying you were following the orders given by your leader will not always avert disciplinary actions.

Leaders expect to have power over their followers and are accustomed to having their orders carried out-sometimes without question. However, some leaders fail to realize the importance of garnering follower trust in an effort to earn the respect necessary to make followers feel comfortable with unquestionably following orders. Many leaders instill and rely on fear to activate their followers and many of those followers have been punished for carrying out the orders of their leaders out of fear. One of the most noted leader-follower relationships where fear influences followers’ decisions to follow orders occur in the military. Lower ranked service members often blindly follow the orders of their superiors.

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