Follow the Leader to Follow Your Heart

Janelle Monáe on Being a Positive, Powerful Influence & Inspiration:

I have a responsibility to my community. I have a responsibility to tell the universe a story in an unforgettable way. I really want to open doors for all those starting to have their voice…. I want to speak to my cousins who are still in Kansas and feel like they don’t have anyone; I want to speak to the young lady who is trying to understand who she is and how she’s going to follow her dreams living in a disadvantaged environment. […] I want to present a different perspective of what it means to be a strong woman, and I just hope to be an inspiration to the next generation of girls, to help them define what makes them unique and what makes them special (Canada, 2013).

Role model Janelle Monáe proposes change in societal norms of followers and leaders. Applying her referent power of admiration and respect via her remarkable methods, she employs a persuasive campaign to change the attitudes and behaviors of all who can appreciate her beautiful voice and ambitions. She challenges her audience to join her social movement to propose change in societal norms to be unique as a follower and as a leader.

Janelle Monáe’s persuasive campaign for people to stand out to gain happiness of freedom and power demonstrates the eight characteristics that Everett Rogers and Douglas Storey identify of successful campaigns. The eight features are to:
pretest messages and identify market segments,
exposing a large segment of the audience to clear campaign messages,
most accessible media for target groups,
use the media to raise awareness,
rely on interpersonal messages to lead to and reinforce behavior change,
direct messages at the individual needs of the audience, and
emphasize positive rewards rather than prevention (Hackman & Johnson, 2009).

Janelle Monáe expresses these characteristics of successful campaigns by expressing herself for others to express themselves with her lifestyle as a famous music artist. In an interview, she says, “I represent for the have-nots… I don’t think that I make music for Kings and Queens (Oakes, 2010).” She tailors her message for her target audience by recognizing and utilizing the influence of captivating songs to employ an accessible positive message for her audience with her popular song, ‘Tightrope.’ She clarifies the meaning of this main memo through verbal and nonverbal language of lyrics, interviews, dance, and fashion. As a leader, she persuades with the strength and access of media to raise awareness for the people. “Every time you step outside you’re dealing with life and you’re trying to stay sane, for a lack of better words. Balance, to me, is the key; not getting too high, not getting too low – that’s what ‘Tightrope’ represents. It’s like life’s tutorial on how to actually make it through life without becoming insane and driving yourself to a life full of hatred and just not wanting to be here (Oakes, 2010).” She leads to and reinforces behavior change with the referent power of her role model position to many, particularly those with similar social backgrounds, and also with credible sources. In her song, she makes credible references commit to the task at hand with her own success of walking on a thin line as herself in the music industry and to the success of Philippe Petit tightroping between the twin towers of the World Trade Centre Tightrope Between the Towers, n.d.). She directs messages to the needs of individuals for their personal freedom and power to thrive, as a positive reward. With utilization of the eight characteristics of successful campaigns through her music, she challenges everyone to improve as a follower to spread the catchy message as their own leader.

In elaboration of the phrase “A chain is only as strong as its weakest link,” I personally believe that the whole chain is meaningless if the clasp is not dependable. Janelle Monáe is a model of a strong leader and a strong clasp with how she believes and directly applies messages that she instills. It is ethical and integral for followers to depend on the leader and their message to connect perfectly. Janelle Monáe successfully establishes this with uniquely expressing herself about the importance of unique expression. A personal application behind this expression of myself in a unique way is through my favorite medium of duct tape. As a statement of repurposing an idea and product, I create functional duct tape art to create projects ranging from duct tape wallets to temporarily redirecting a ceiling leak to a prom dress. I choose to express myself in a unique way to show people to reconsider societal norms and alternatives. This way of life really sticks to me, but frees me with creativity and encourages others to express themselves in their unique way. Applications of this information can be utilized for everyone, followers and leaders alike to better themselves and better the world.


Canada, E. (2013, January 10). Janelle Monae: “I Want Them To Focus On My Music, Not My Body”. Clutch Magazine. Retrieved February 22, 2013, from

Hackman, M. Z., & Johnson, C. E. (2009). Public Leadership.Leadership: a communication perspective(5 ed., pp. 284-288). Long Grove, Ill.: Waveland Press.

Oakes, M. G. (2010, May 10). Janelle Monae: The Meaning Of ‘Tightrope’. Soul Culture. Retrieved February 22, 2013, from

Tightrope Between the Towers. (n.d.). New York: The Center of the World . WGBH American Experience | PBS. (n.d.). PBS: Public Broadcasting Service. Retrieved March 21, 2013, from


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