Follow the Leader

Which came first—followers or leaders?

To answer the question, let’s consider the following:


Cute Little Lemming

They are migratory rodents similar to muskrats, mice, hamsters and gerbils. Their voracious appetites drive them to constantly seek new habitats, quite zealously. In fact, some die in the pursuit—not deliberately, but as a result of foolishness. It seems the little buggers are not very good planners. Somewhat impulsive, their group behavior has created a popular myth that they actually commit mass suicide—which really isn’t true since there is no intention, but the outcome is still, disturbingly, the same. Some are quite willing to follow someone else right off a cliff!

Svengali at work

Then there’s Svengali

Although he was originally a character in a 1894 novel called Trilby, the very name has become synonymous with an evil manipulator. A Svengali is a person who exercises a controlling or mesmerizing influence on another, usually for a hidden, sinister purpose.

And what about the Stockholm Syndrome?

Patty Hearst willing hostage

Hostages can develop a deep psychological bond with their captors as we saw in the 1973 Stockholm, Sweden incident, when two men held four people hostage during and after an infamous bank robbery. The hostages became enamored with their captors, refusing to testify against them after release—some even started raising money to defend them. Incredible! The original trauma morphed into a strange admiration and dependency on their captors.

Then there’s our 21st century Celebrityism.

Somehow we have granted pop-culture personalities equal status to nobility, almost like ancient deities. Our heroes and heroines could very well be former reality show characters rather than inspirational world leaders or humble servants of the people. What a curious twist of both values and events.

Whether observing Lemmings, Svengalis, extreme Celebrityism or victims of the Stockholm Syndrome, we can see a recognizable pattern, whereby temporarily or permanently a person has gained unimaginable leverage over another. In psychology, this condition is known as Identity Fusion, where the powerful manipulator has caused others to become subsumed into the leader’s personality and world view to the point that the leader gains and holds complete power and control—the victims have totally surrendered all individualism and will do anything suggested by their leader.


We believe that vulnerable followers and unhealthy leaders always exist and can arise together in a co-dependent and potentially deadly dance at any time. Beware! As the song says—Everybody wants to be dazzled. Everybody loves a sleight of hand—believe it was real!



Everybody loves a good show
Everybody likes to sing and dance along—Have a good time
With a song planted in your head
Mechanically, every word re-said—It goes on
When the show’s done

Everybody wants to be dazzled
Everybody loves a sleight of hand—Believe it was real
Inside your head you re-run the act
Again and again, you play it back—It goes on
When the show’s done

What began as a tune that you wanted to hum
Soon bugs you so much that your brain starts to numb

Attracted by the words and ways 
Drawn into the spectacle of the showman 
Willing shill or passive prop
Designed to charm and captivate
Could it be he’s nothing more than a show off  
For the cheerful chump, delighted dupe

Everybody loves to be distracted
Briefly lose ourselves in fantasy—Leave the real world
With an alternate reality
We’re no longer who we used to be
The drama goes on, but we’re gone
Why worry ’bout the day-to-day
All we have to do is make a trade
A leap from faith
Then hope for some grace
Believe, but then you can’t leave

Just grieve


This song/story is dedicated to hope and individualistic thinking.


From album – Hold to the Heart
Track released – November 23, 2020
Cheryl Martlage – Lyrics, Vocals and Production
Emerson Martlage – Music, Guitar, Vocals and Production
Inspiration – Current American Politics, “The Vow,” Cults and Charismatic Leaders and Psychology