I've been a part of both before. And I now recognize the difference. What about you?
Allow for unique voices and different approaches. While there are professional boundaries and a code of conduct, as well as non ego driven leadership, no one "owns" the authority. Instead, there are many opinions and ideas, each worthwhile and valued. Decisions are weighed and made with respect. No one is threatened by the other's success. Sincerity and transparency is celebrated.
There is a minimum of "catchy" one liners ("just saying", "boom!", etc), winky faces, and lols. The leadership values transparency and diving deep, welcomes other leaders into their group, and they walk their talk - their guiding message actually aligns with what they do behind the scenes.
Shooting fish in a barrel is not allowed. Marketing hooks or fear baiting is considered unethical practices. While abundance is celebrated, the main focus is not on money - as success looks different to different people. If in a social media group, the leaders do not upsell to that group. And if they do...it is owned and there is a specific time/space for this. Affiliate relationships are disclosed - always.
The leaders do not take credit for other people's success. Nor do they manipulate with tribal shaming. Co-dependancy and passive aggression is minimal and worked through. Sharing information openly and freely, brain storming, and idea expansion is welcomed.
If a leader makes a mistake, or has a less than kind moment, says something out of turn, or doesn't acknowledge the good contributions of others within the tribe, they own it, acknowledge it, and extend an apology. Ruptures are repaired.
In the end, there is a fresh quality to the group, many different roads that look like success to each person in the tribe. Many colors and varieties in the tribe. Difference is celebrated and uniqueness is cherished.
The herd packs together and is led by a few who stand to benefit from the many. Leadership sniffs out complex dependencies, unresolved trauma around belonging, financial anxieties, and exploits this subtly. Often these are the unhealed trauma wounds of the leaders themselves and a chance to be "popular" and in charge.
Capitalizing on inexperience, fear and uncertainty is the tie that binds unhealthy herds. There is a "buy in" with herds...always dressed up as a "join us if you are like this (nice, kind, fun, etc)." People who question, require further information, offer new ideas, or challenge the leaders group think are labeled as "mean and unreasonable", or in worst case scenarios, and with certain groups, these black sheep are labeled and diagnosed by the leaders of the herd.
There are blurry boundaries in herds; people buy from the leaders, but also must offer personal support, compliments, and be the "drinking or lunch buddy." The leaders are your good pals, like "family." Family that you pay and kiss ass to. The herd races to and fro trying to stay on top of the latest sparkly object the leaders dangle. Groups and incentives are offered as "support" and "shooting fish in a barrel" is guised as help. Neediness is celebrated and important. The herd rushes daily to the latest fearful sheep offering their "same here! same here!" clucking noises.
Unhealthy leaders are pleased by this. They call it "bonding" and the herd blushes in the glow of the compliment.
The followers are many. The leaders know "just enough" about a whole lot of topics and products. The latest and greatest gadgets, brain child programs, and "expertise" are used as sales techniques. Appreciation and acceptance is given if you follow the herd. Questions and differing points of view are frowned upon. Likes on platforms like Facebook are passed along to those who earn them by their allegiance to the leadership. Likes are the gold stars of "good behavior" the stamp of approval from the powers that be.
The leadership is competitive and closed to other leaders. For those outside leaders who are perceived as a threat to the leadership status quo, silence is used as violence and speaks volumes. Or private emails or messages are sent to slap the hand of anyone who may draw attention away from the leaders. The overriding message to the herd is, "You need us to succeed." If the people in charge are questioned from the outside, the herd flocks together to protect the leaders.
And herds are often made up of vulnerable, good hearted people who need a hand, not a herd. Who need support, not a sales pitch. Who need reassurance that they can do it, not an early bird special to buy, who need some focused guidance for a season, but need not spend hundreds per hour or 1,000's per program to receive quality and caring support. In herds, a person who hesitates in signing the dotted line is told that they are not valuing their worth if they do not invest.
This is shaming dressed up in a costume of support. This is manipulation and exploitation dressed up as inclusivity and specialness. This is also the mind set of cult members. Leaders of a herd think that their carefully and "casually cool" positioned pitches are gobbled up by every single sheep, and that their friendly LOLs and smiling faced manipulation is undetected by all.
And this lack of insight into the wisdom of human beings is always the demise of herd leaders.
In the end, everyone in the herd begins to blend together and look the same. Same branding, same voice, same website style, same marketing, same photos, same this, same that, same voice, same nodding heads, same ev-er-y thing. No one asks why. It is accepted simply because that is what the leadership says is awesome, important, and the path to success.
And...once in awhile, a brave soul or two declares, "The emperor has no clothes!", and breaks free from the herd to find a healthy tribe.
Question: Can you still hear *your* own heart over the bleating and braying of the herd mentality? Can you still see *your* own vision and path instead of what is being sold/told to you?
Kindly and in support,
Mari A. Lee, LMFT, CSAT-S