“Leadership” has become a buzz word in recent times. It really doesn’t take much searching before a person can find themselves bombarded with self-development talks and blogs. Whether it’s Simon Sinek highlighting the importance of finding your “why” or Tony Robbins…well… being Tony Robbins, the world is certainly not at a loss for people preaching the old adage that to “be a leader, not a follower” is better.
I’m definitely guilty of soaking up loads of this content, myself. Two years ago, I even joined a continuing studies program to earn a certificate in leadership, which is actually a funny concept since I bet the better leaders in life aren’t “certified” as such. Nonetheless, the experience was a positive one, but I’ve been exploring recently why people have such a fear about following?
Of course, I recognize that following without asking questions, or out of social pressure is dangerous. But, is there really a harm in preferring to play a supporting role instead of trying to get top billing? I suppose I may be biased – I mean, I’m here writing this post on someone else’s website. The truth is that I’m not a person who desires the limelight by any stretch. I enjoy supporting other people in their endeavors and when something speaks to my heart, I’m happy to join in, rather than re-invent the wheel. It’s not as though I lack the ability or confidence to be independent; in the past, I have kept blogs of my own, I started a poetry page online, and I spent two years working in private consulting. Yet, my preferred position as a supporter or “follower” seems to be frequently shamed in society.
Is there a gendered component to this? Am I just a more traditional female who would rather nurture than build – and does society have difficulty absorbing that? Or, does this transcend gender? Either way, the obsession with leading has gotten to a point where it seems overwhelming. If everyone leads, who will be led?
For me, I think it’s really becoming increasingly important to acknowledge that a person can both lead and follow in different areas of their life. At this point, we all know the advantages to the former, but in making a case for the latter, I’d like to highlight the following pros:
– following is a good way to keep your ego in check.
– following is a loving way of demonstrating trust. Whether it’s with a friend, partner, or family member, following can be a great way of saying that you have faith in someone else’s vision
– following opens you up to new ideas and experiences – ones you never thought of before.
– following takes the pressure off! You can still contribute to things you believe in without feeling like you need to figure it all out by yourself.
All in all, following is something that we can do with grace, love, and compassion. It doesn’t have to be a sign of weakness and it isn’t indicative of lacking ambition. As complex beings, there’s space to be both a leader and a follower. So, if you get the urge to re-live your childhood, I would strongly recommend that you play “follow the leader,” but feel free to follow once in a while. It’s not so bad.