Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Leadership is overrated...
Are you a leader or a follower? We’re told how important it is to be a leader. Every college in America claims to be “creating tomorrow’s leaders.” We’re told to “develop our leadership skills” if we want a good job or to get ahead in life. Leaders are important, we’re told.
I heard a story recently about a young woman who was filling out a college application for her Dream College. She had the grades, the SAT scores, the extracurricular activities, a kicking essay and great recommendations. But there was one question on her application that she struggled over. That question? “Are you a leader?”
She knew, deep down, that the correct answer – at least as far as admission departments are concerned – is a resounding “YES!” But that wouldn’t be honest. She wasn’t a leader. And she wasn’t going to lie about it. She said no, and waited to be rejected.
But when the letter came, it read, “Dear Applicant. As Dream College welcomes an incoming class of 1500 leaders, we are happy to admit at least one person who might follow them.”
“Too many chiefs and not enough Indians” is a problem. Nothing gets done when everyone is in charge.
I’m often a leader, but it’s very often by default. I don’t necessarily have to be in charge, but if you’re just going to screw it up, then yes, I’ll step forward. (I’m a control freak, I admit it.) I believe in service to an organization or group that serves me, and I’ll volunteer because I’m a busybody. I’m happy to follow a good leader, but I do have a “Lead, Follow, or Get the Hell Out Of The Way” philosophy.
Personally, I believe we’re creating too many leaders. If everyone thinks they’re destined to lead, then nothing is ever going to get done. I’m struggling right now with AC. AC wants to lead. She doesn’t want to follow (especially if they’re just going to screw it up). I’m trying to get her to see the merit and the worthiness of being a good follower.
Followers are important. Hell, you can’t lead a Conga Line at wedding reception without followers. Leaders without followers are useless. They are the nutjobs that stand on street corners at shout at cars passing by. They get nothing for their effort – regardless of their message.
The book I just turned in is about an activist heroine who accidentally starts a political movement. A friend helping me with some research sent me a link to a video about movements, and specifically the importance of the First Follower. It’s worth watching, because it stresses the importance of followers, but specifically the First Follower. In three minutes, one lone shirtless dancing guy creates a mob of happy dancers – but only because he was able to get that First Follower.
So I’m working with AC on the importance of being a good follower. Her “Followship Skills,” if you like. And if she learns something about being a good leader in the process, then, well, she’ll probably conquer the world.
So how are your Followship Skills?