Follow the leader... but at what cost?

Mark Van Vugt on how leaders can encourage loyalty and sacrifice.
Leaders of all types – of nations, ethnic and religious communities, businesses and teams – often call upon individuals to make sacrifices for the group, especially during wars, recessions, competitions, and other situations in which groups are under threat. At the peak of the Cold War, for example, John F. Kennedy famously stated in his inaugural address: ‘My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.’ More recently, Tony Blair announced the war with Iraq by praising the loyalty of the British troops: ‘As so often before, on the courage and determination of British men and women, serving our country, the fate of many nations rests.’ To understand why people are willing to make sacrifices for their groups, sometimes even at the cost of their lives, we must try to comprehend how leaders are able to influence individuals so that they will forgo their immediate interests and act for the greater good of the group.

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