Quofda: Are You A Leader Or A Follower?

A past Question of the Day asks, “Are you a leader or a follower?” I guess the question intrigued me because as with so many, there are never any clean cut answers to this – just as asking this question in different scenarios will never yield the same answer. At the same time, let’s face it. No one wants to be a sheep, though no one can honestly say he or she loved Mussolini purely because he was a “leader.” I think the question touches upon a natural part of human psychology – can you name one person who would volunteer that he wished to be considered a follower?

Of course not. But it’s never so cut and dry as that, though, is it?

In reality, the question asks, “Are you set apart from the masses or are you just another member of them?” Also, “Do you dictate to others or are you dictated to?” – and if you are dictated to – God help you if your “dictator” is anything other than benevolent as you are, by nature, bent to the whim and whimsy of others.

I think we can all agree that no one is a leader all of the time. Or at least in the static sense of the word. That is, no one is domineering and controlling in all situations – one should hope. Without making a final judgment call on my own character, I know that the majority of what I want to say about myself (without that being the end result) I want to be consistent with, or even indicative of, my actions. “Leading by example” might be the closest way to describe my leadership style.

I’ll be honest. I find that people who talk about being a leader and how exactly to be a leader – just the mere act of the discussion on how the one best way to BE that one type of leader – annoy me to no end. It’s cliché. It assumes that there is:

  1. only one way to achieve the end goal of leading others, of inherently being ahead of them, and
  2. the ultimate end goal that everyone should have of controlling others, or of getting what *you* want.

As if there’s a self-help book out there that’s the end all and we’re to undermine any notion of individuality of our own. In the end, there’s tons of grey matter in the topic. There’s varying degrees of influence that each person carries in different areas. There are so many different, desirable qualities that fall under both leading and following (the latter of which should not be confused with weakness). Grace is a good thing. So is the act of listening. Besides, when people begin to sense that your main motivation is so that you – not the collective – benefit the most in the end, they lose trust in you. Ask yourself, how do you know when the goal is achieved? Is the end goal concrete or is it actually about notoriety, fame and the realization of the hunger for power?

And there I go – not answering the question. So am I a leader? I’d like to think I’m a leader in areas I’m suited to lead in. I don’t need to be designated as such to try and serve the best way I know how. I don’t need to make all the cues or even figure out the direction that is ultimately taken in the project to feel as if I’ve led a little. So no, I’m not a leader at all times but other, if not most, times I believe I am. No matter what my experience, I try and do the best I can, learn from it, speak up if I question or object, and improve the best way I know how.