Why Follow Someone?

Granted, sometimes it is a case of following someone out of morbid curiosity to see what disaster is about to ensue, so that either plausible deniability may be ensured, or to see just how bad it could possibly be . . .

[Speaking of which, NO POLITICS! Please.]

I was thinking more about “What motivates the Hunters to follow a certain leader?” When you have a generally merit-based society, what causes some people to start turning to a particular individual and treating that person as a leader? I do not think of myself as a leader, but other people do. I freely admit, I’m not entirely certain why, save for the “morbid curiosity and entertainment value” aspect of things. But why do the Hunters follow Skender and Arthur? Why do they follow Danut Adrescu? What motivates people to follow, when other options are available?

In Danut Adrescu’s case, blood ties play a role. He’s the clan leader, descended from clan leaders (or their sisters, depending on who was born first and who outlived whom) going back a long way. He and his half-brother have been trained to be leaders, and the others in the larger group have a set of expectations about what the clan chief is supposed to do, how he’s supposed to behave, and how he will reward virtue and punish vice. Adrescu’s going to have to do a bit of the latter, assuming he survives whatever the Ottomans seem to be hatching, assuming that Codrin’s vision is truly precognitive. Radut has also earned the respect of the other men and women, in his case partly because he refuses to allow a crippling injury keep him from doing what needs to be done. His skill as both a horse trainer and horse rider also play a role. Kinship as a tie of military service was found in feudal Japan as well as other places. When in doubt, follow your kindred, circle around the center of the larger family’s property, and protect those related to you – that’s one of the oldest loyalties in the books, literally.

There’s not as much opportunity for loot with the Hunters as in traditional armies. You could argue that the Fruits of the Hunt are loot, and it’s true that the Hunters in Adrescu’s time were not averse to confiscating the goods of people who were proven to be getting into mischief, be it mundane or esoteric. Should Adrescu have to face the Ottoman Turks, his soldiers and Hunters will grab what they can if they win. It’s tradition, and a good reward. In our world, even into the early modern era, there were people who fought with, oh, Prince Eugene of Savoy, because he had a record of winning and rewarding his men very well. Or of letting them reward themselves from the enemy. When the monarchs and princes couldn’t pay their hired soldiers, the men found loot on their own – see Rome, 1527, and Charles V’s problem with losing control of his troops. In Eugene’s case, it also tied into charisma. He took care of his troopers, even when he considered them swine. He tended to win more often than he lost, he ended up with loot at some point during most campaigns, and he tended to be impartial when it came to discipline.

Skender and Arthur proved themselves to the Riverton clan as Hunters first and foremost. Then Skender began quietly taking on more and more duties, especially the lesser duties of the senior Hunter. The then-leader was old, in poor health, and couldn’t do those things. Skender showed that he had the needed skills, sense of duty, and training to lead, should the opportunity arise. Arthur supported his brother, and may have on occasion dealt with other Hunters who might have posed threats to Skender. Perhaps. Maybe. No one ever admitted to doing such, and Skender could more than take care of himself. So when the old clan leader died, the Elders and Hunters agreed that Skender was a reasonable choice. It wasn’t without challenges and fights, as series readers have probably surmised. And every so often a Hunter would push things, leading to injuries.

Now? Skender and Arthur have both proven themselves, and no one is suicidal enough to take them on as a pair. Arthur served as head of the Hunters, overseeing training and ensuring order more-or-less. The other Elders and retired Hunters knew about Arthur’s injuries and how hard he pushed himself, and admired him. The younger Hunters respected him profoundly, feared him, and occasionally challenged him. Once or twice, a younger Hunter went to Arthur for counsel, and he provided it without demeaning the younger man or telling others. When it appeared that he’d been mortally wounded on the Hunt, it hit the “puppies” hard. Skender was the senior Hunter, true, but Arthur was their leader. At the same time, when Skender took full responsibility for his brother’s injuries, Skender gained more respect as well (although it didn’t stop some of the youngsters and Elders from growling about it, well away from the rest of the clan.)

Why follow? There are a lot of reasons. Experience, family ties and tradition, the hope of reward, the desire to be present when the dreadfully creative disaster unfolds (because great stories sometimes start with, “Ya’ll won’t believe what Bubba did this time.”) Me? I like a leader who gives me a long leash and who states clearly what needs to be done, what is being done, and why (when possible), and who supports subordinates when the chips are down.

12 thoughts on “Why Follow Someone?

  1. Then also… some people just have “leader” written all over them. Maybe it’s an aura acquired from years of leadership; maybe it’s something else.
    Surely you’ve had the experience: you encounter some random person in a random context – on the trail, at the county fair, whatever – and you suddenly feel the need to straighten up and make a good impression for no apparent reason?
    And you’ve likely had the experience of being that person: some stranger inexplicably decides you must be a leader, perhaps because you look alert and seem to have a clue what’s going on.

  2. Some other traits come to mind.

    The ability to think or plan ahead, in large or small steps (strategic or tactical if you will).
    Keeping alternate plans or contingencies in mind.
    Ability to communicate clearly at the followers’ levels of understanding.
    Ability to remain calm or collected, even when things appear to come apart.

    That fits both Skender and Arthur.

  3. Generally speaking, the leader in a situation is the first one to take charge and start giving orders. It’s often quite as simple as that. As a junior enlisted, I became the leader on several (rather extended) occasions simply because I took charge when no one else would. The E-7’s didn’t like taking orders from an E-4, but they hadn’t taken charge, and they knew they had lost their chance. The real trick is then convincing outsiders that you’re the one in charge of that group. (See also the scene in “Starship Troopers” where Johnny has to fight his buddy for a leadership position. Dominance must be established and maintained.)

    People follow because they have a fundamental need for leadership. Anything that involves more than one person for more than a few minutes requires a leader to take charge. It’s built into the mammal-brain to follow the leader. There’s a kid’s song in “Peter Pan” about following the leader.

    • This. ^^^

      Karl von Stahlberg has a tendency to act first, then apologize later, but it generally serves him well. He also ended up in a leadership role simply because he was the only one with a plan for dealing with the main problem, and the problems that would come later.

      I’m trying to develop him into the kind of leader that people follow because of who HE is, not because of who his father and uncle are.

    • I would very slightly modify your first line: the leader in a given situation is the first one who can convince others to take orders from them.
      Glendower: I can call the spirits from the vasty deep.

      Hotspur: Why, so can I, or so can any man;
      But will they come, when you do call for them?

      — Shakespeare, Henry IV Part 1

      I’d also comment that following a leader isn’t built into every mammal – try to get, say, a wolverine to follow you and you’ll only get hurt – but it is most certainly built into social organisms of any clade. Humans are very social organisms.

  4. Ah! How to write a leader!

    I do not think of myself as a leader, but other people do.

    You’re confident in what you do or say and can back it up, you don’t say stuff just to say stuff, you’re not prickly about when people want information or otherwise “challenge” you.

    The heavy dose of “I am too tired to bother with this nonsense” probably helps, too. There are leaders who can be spun up, but it feels like that’s more of an “inspite of” than a “Because of.”

  5. Leading by example is another trait… Being willing to get down and dirty with the ‘troops’, and having a reputation for taking care of their people generates loyalty both up and down the chain.

  6. Skender, IMO, is NOT a good leader; a leader, yes, but not a good one…due to his volatile temper. Time and again, we see various people debating with themselves whether to inform him or not regarding various issues, and mostly choosing to NOT inform him, or HEAVILY censoring what and when Skender is told something. (or is this due to character pov/author bias)?.

    • I’d say character POV. The other clan members see him as a good leader. Plus what the stories show are crisis points, either personal crisis (Preternaturally Familiar) or general crisis (Malevolently Familiar). In Overly Familiar, he’s pretty calm, although he pokes Arthur for putting personal feelings (for Lelia and Deborah) above the good of the clan (the defenses for the home farm). Yes, the attack on Karol/Jude was bad temper, but as Jude himself admits, he should have paid more attention and not shot his mouth off. (Author bias – and Skender should have just thumped Karol, not tried to kill him.)

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