As a society, we have been conditioned to follow orders, beg for permission, and ask for guidance in any situation. This is not limited to situations in which there is an obvious authority figure present. No, it's well-documented that people will follow orders from a cop, a scientist, or some other clear leader. What's less known is that many people will follow anyone to avoid leading.
My coworkers are an excellent example of this. Even when we have plenty of people working and business is slow, my coworkers ask permission to take breaks. In the absence of someone who might be authorized to grant such permission (not that it would be necessary, given that people are willing to cooperate to be sure they get their breaks), they'll ask permission of someone else. Since I don't beg permission, they beg me for permission.
The same people will ask me for guidance on what should be easy judgment calls or even things we've been given clear instructions on. They'll even page me while I'm at lunch for such questions.
Sure, it may be good for my ego, but it's bad for my stress levels. I take on enough based on my inability to beg for permission, constantly second-guess myself, or hold myself to only what those above me order. Taking charge isn't generally my thing, but if it's asked of me, I generally do it. I far prefer to be neither leader nor follower.
People seem to need someone to tell them what to do, even when they know. It's the reason fads come and go. Someone (often someone famous) does, says, or wears something (often something stupid). Others decide to follow suit, since that first person must know something they don't. Pretty soon, a lot of people are dressing, speaking, and acting the same way, until someone else (or the same person) starts something else. It's not because people see an inherent value in following, but that they are afraid not to. And that's why companies make sure their products are seen in the hands of stars. People are afraid of being the odd duck out.
It's also why people are afraid of guns--they aren't exposed to them. People conceal their carry pieces, also afraid of standing out, and the only time people see or hear about guns, it's generally related to bad things going down. This, among other things, is why I'm a big proponent of open carry. People follow. If people see others taking their safety into their own hands, not being scared of an object, they may just decide to follow suit. And personal responsibility doesn't go out of style.