There’s a lot of talk about leadership. Sometimes you come across someone giving an inspiring speech where they say something like “Decide to become a leader!” or maybe someone posting a picture of a famous person with a quote that says “Don’t be a follower.”
The idea behind all this noise around leadership is that being a follower is bad because you’re not contributing something substantial and meaningful, and you’re not doing anything new and original. You’re not expressing your unique self, you’re just going through the motions without putting yourself forth.
And being a leader is associated with all these qualities like someone who has an opinion they believe in, someone who has social influence, someone who can tell you what to do because they know.
The impression is that it’s better to be a leader than a follower. The whole worldview is basically like this:
Leadership is definitely something to value. To be a leader is something good, at least it usually is. And it’s a good idea to find a leader you look up to and strive to learn from them, as they become a good example for you to follow.
But this oversimplification of life of “just be a leader” and “don’t be a follower” is, as Jordan Peterson might say, the kind of low-resolution thinking that just gets you nowhere.
What is bothersome about this kind of noise is many things. It distracts from the thing you should actually be focusing on, which is different for every person in every situation. It also splits humanity into two groups, one is higher than the other. It posits a worldview in which there are people who are winners, and people who are losers, and they put themselves in the winners bucket.
They then figure out all the details and facts and reasons and evidence and so on to support this worldview and back it up.
It’s really fundamentally not very different if at all from things like racism (where one race is superior to others, and the people peddling this view are the ones belonging to the so-called superior race), and any kind of religious discrimination (the kind that is not based on a person’s actual personal beliefs and actions, but on a political association related to religious labels), and any of the countless other “solutions” people may be spewing around, which are usually presented as a solution to the problem of everything, and they’re the messiahs and messengers that’re coming down to the mortal realm to share with us out of their pure generosity and altruism and transcendent love for us. Usually in exchange for likes or money haha.
The funny thing is about the leadership noise, or any other kind of noise like this, is that it’s built on truth, but twisted and corrupted for selfish gain. There is genuine value in learning about leadership. It’s seriously very important if you’re responsible for people in any capacity, and very useful for yourself.
But to be a leader, who are you leading? Where are you leading them to? Do you know where you’re going? Are there people who look to you for guidance and direction?
Here’s a question I wanna pose: Does one decide to be a leader? The answer is no. Others choose to follow you. Once someone chooses to follow you, they make you their leader, and slap the “leader” label on your forehead. Followership is voluntary. The status or label of a leader is something others give to you. You don’t take the label for yourself, you don’t decide to be a leader.
Also, no one will ever willingly follow you if you don’t know where you’re going. They’ll know you’re lost and won’t follow you.
To be a leader, take care of yourself. Start there. Start with your private life, don’t go out there in society looking for people to lead. No no. No no no. Nooooooo. Don’t do that for god’s sake. Look within your own life. Do you know where you yourself are going?
If the answer is no, then figure out where you’re going in life. If the answer is yes, then focus on moving in that direction. Nowhere in this picture do you become a leader. Because whenever you’re worthy, and others recognize it, and those who recognize it need something you’ve provided for yourself, and learned how to, they’ll ask you questions about how you did this and that. They’ll ask you for advice. They’ll start paying attention to you to see how you’re doing things in order to learn from you. They’ll label you their leader, and do as you do. Then you’ll be a leader. That could happen even when you’re lost. It’s just very unlikely.
So if you wanna be a leader, lead yourself somewhere you need to go but don’t know how to.
If you have no idea where to go, be a follower. Wisely choose a leader to follow. When you’re lost, you better be a follower. That’s the best help you can provide yourself. Maybe you can lead those who are lost around you to following the right person. Then you’re a leader because you taught them who to follow and why. But you must do that for yourself. Choose a leader to follow, and make sure you’re following the right person, for the right reasons, to serve the right needs within yourself.
It’s not about leading or being a leader, or not following, or not being a follower. It’s about moving forward in the right direction. People may voluntarily choose to follow you. Then you’ll be a leader. If they choose to stop following you, then you won’t be a leader.