While watching Gossip Girl on DVR last night, a particular scene reminded me of the concept of leadership and followers as well as the idea of leadership related to power and authority. Jenny Humphrey is a character that used to be an outcast in her school, but eventually turned things around through her perseverance and networking to end up as the “Queen Bee” of her preparatory school. Originally her character was sweet and innocent. She even came into the role of Queen Bee trying to change its position to be of the people and not over the people, but she quickly realized she either needed to lead and take power or someone else would.
In this episode in particular, Jenny was put in a position that was a power struggle. There is an area on a staircase that she and her “minions” claim as theirs and no one is supposed to sit above her on the steps. A former friend challenged her because he believed that she had changed into a person he could no longer follow. She originally asked him nicely to move down, but when he refused her minions poured the yogurt they purchased for Jenny on his head. When Jenny later apologized in a nonpublic setting and tried to explain how she had to appear powerful to continue respect she instead lost his respect.
This situation made me think of several theories including the idea of values and morals in leadership as well as followership and also theories in regards to authority and power. First, several theorists, believe that values are part of leadership. Heifitz (1994) mentions that “leadership has come to mean providing vision and influencing others to realize it through non-coercive means” (p. 15). Jenny and her followers did use coercive means to influence others behavior. While Jenny is at the “front of the flock of geese” as Heifitz describes as a way biology describes leadership, is she actually leading or influencing? Or is she actually the one being influenced by her “followers”?
According to Burns (1978), “the actual extent of the exercise of power is measured by the extent that intended results are realized” (p. 433). Jenny did eventually get the results of having the people move from the stairs, but was that her intention or her followers? While she has the title, which creates position power, the intentions and manner things are being handled show that she may not be the leader after all. She is not influencing others, but instead being influenced. She is not following her vision, but instead doing things to remain in power. She is following her followers, so her followers are actually more leaders than she is.
I believe this shows Jenny is not truly a leader in this situation. I found this episode to show that power and leadership do not necessarily go hand and hand, but influence and vision may be more indicators of strength in leadership.