When someone says, “If you’re not a leader, then you’re a follower,” he is saying that the only real existence is as part of some group as one or the other. Leadership schools and vendors reinforce this view by presenting leadership as some nirvana possessing no inherent downsides. That is counterintuitive.
Now, when confronted by inherent downsides, benefactors of this perspective are quick to attribute them to “bad leadership” prompted by “bad people.” They cannot accept that, no matter how good the model or person, leadership has inherent dark sides. Yes, positives exist, but unless we grasp its negatives, we don’t understand leadership.
For instance, many individuals have no need for leaders. As with Howard Roark in Ayn Rand’s Fountainhead and many superheroes and heroines, they aren’t obsessed with accumulating followers. They just want to do their work that they do so well. Also, frequently they:
- Know what needs to be done without being told
- Think and emote for themselves
- Determine their own likes and dislikes, their own beliefs
- Require no feeding of followers to their egos
- Possess self-motivation, initiative and inspiration
- Have talents and skills exceeding most leaders
- Find intrinsic pleasure in helping others, in seeing their talents serving good
- Accept leaders temporarily and conditionally often for no other reason than to humor them so they get out of the way
- Are on guard for leaders suffering from hubris or extending themselves beyond original conditions and timeframes
- Are masters of their own souls, relinquishing that to no leader
- Dissuade others from following them by helping and encouraging them to discover their own unique life path
Yes, there are people whose internal personalities are so strong, dynamic and compassionate that leaders are necessary temporary evils and followers are mutually beneficial sojourners.
So, are you a leader, a follower or . . . ?