Followership Research Moves Towards Completion

by Wendy M. Edmonds

It’s not done yet. How often do we have to say that to our friends, our family, and – in this case – everyone who helped with my work, when we realize the project we took on was ten times bigger than we ever dreamed. Though I truly expected to be finished with the research that I discussed last year, I would like to take a moment to reflect on what I have done.

I was so excited to be in the Bay Area of California for the first time. Armed with my voice recorder and questions, I was ready to interview those generous former members of Peoples Temple who had agreed to participate in my study on the followers of Jim Jones. What a warm welcome! The room was filled with joy. The sound of laughter radiated throughout the air while hugs and kisses were shared among the group members. After we all settled in, it was time to begin.

I had reduced my anxiety in facilitating the focus groups by spending an enormous amount of time in preparation for this event. Yet in the span of only a few minutes, the mood changed and continued to do so – in an unpredictable, exhilarating roller coaster style – while memories of people and events careened around the room. To a degree some of the heartfelt responses were poetic in nature. If there was one constant, it was that each person told their stories if they had taken place yesterday instead of more than 30 years ago: the passions, emotions, and beliefs remain as strong as that.

I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to explore the leader-follower relationship through the voices of the Jonestown survivors. It is through this experience that I accept that qualitative research is something that must evolve without a time limit imposed.

So, even though it’s not done yet, it will be.

(Anyone who is interested in participating can do so by contacting Wendy M. Edmonds at wmedmonds@umes.edu.)

Originally posted on July 25th, 2013.

Last modified on December 25th, 2013.
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