Mutiny or Association?

There are basically two choices when it comes to following: mutiny or association.

As I embarked on my journey of exploring followership, the 1954 film The Caine Mutiny was recommended to me as a worthwhile watch. I tend to enjoy all things related to the sea anyway, so this movie, set aboard a US Naval vessel, certainly appealed to my interests.

The story revolves around the USS Caine and the assignment of Lt. Commander Queeg (Humphrey Bogart) to replace her previous captain. Queeg displays a variety of odd behaviors, including being highly suspicious of most of the crew, and some of the officers eventually (and questionably) remove him from command.

Without giving any more of the plot away, this film provides an opportunity for us to consider our choices when we become attached to a group of people. We can either fully associate ourselves with them, adopting the group’s norms, values, and methods, or we can live in active resistance and opposition, hoping to conform the group to our own preferences–which is effectively committing mutiny: usurping the group, ignoring its structure, and attempting to put our will in command.

When Lt. Cmdr. Queeg is assigned to the Caine, he makes no attempt to get to know the current culture of the ship and crew. He immediately begins implementing his own desires at every level of the vessel’s operation. Rather than build relationship, rather than entrench himself in a deep association with the other servicemen, Capt. Queeg goes his own way, creating an environment that none of the officers can fully accept, and which eventually leads to their actual mutiny.

It may seem odd for me to use the Captain’s behavior as an example of poor followership and mutiny, but there is an opportunity here for us to evaluate ourselves.

Regardless of our status, role, or title, when we involve ourselves with a group of people, what’s our posture? Are we hoping to truly associate ourselves with the group, to become a faithful member that values what the group stands for and contributes to an effective environment for furthering the organization’s purposes, or are we hoping to remake the group in our own image? Are we joining for the purpose of committing mutiny, or are we committed to engaging and experiencing the benefit of synergy and cooperation that can result from taking part in a real association with others?

You can read more thoughts about association as an aspect of following well in Chapter 20 of my book Embracing Followership, released February 2016 from Kirkdale Press. In the meantime, you can enjoy some excerpts from the book here on this blog.

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