I recently stumbled upon a phenomenon called the “Bystander Effect” and I’m totally fascinated by it. Have a look at the video footage of the social experiment…
There are several factors to ponder about when thinking about the “Bystander Effect’s” implication for leaders:
Asking for help
For instance, if you are a leader asking for help from the community, it seems that it would be the wrong approach to come over as needy or desperate. People don’t want to get involved in someone else’s problem. Nobody wants to be part of a loosing team. Even though you might have a legitimate problem, rather invite people to be part of a solution.
Another thing that comes to mind, is the principle of the two conflicting urges, mentioned in the footage. On the one hand people have the urge to help and do the right thing. But on the other hand they want to stay inside the norm of the group. If the group doesn’t help, the individual will refrain from helping too. For that reason it is very important to create positive group ethics. If the individual’s perception of the group is one of apathy, he/she will shy away of throwing his/her weight in. If you can manage though to tell a positive story of how the group is already involved in relieving the specific need – or even how the group has relieved need in the past and hence we are counting on the group to do it again, the momentum of individuals “buy-in” will escalate.
The guts to break free from the group.
And on another level the “Bystander Effect” gives us a picture of true leadership. Numerous people will walk past someone lying on the pavement (the problem), or they will actively see someone stealing something from someone – but because the group is not doing anything, they are too afraid of stepping out of the group’s norm.
UNTIL one person steps in. You only need one person to stop and help, and then the others will follow. You need one person who’s urge to help is bigger than the urge to fit in. And that one person is the true leader.