“Too many chiefs, not enough indians.”
I know, I know, not at all politically correct, but it’s a phrase I remember from my childhood. (You know, back when we sang, “Red, and Yellow, Black, and White, they are precious in His sight….”) It’s a phrase that I remember being used to mean, “One person in charge at a time.” One person. Now, as a child, that basically is on par with sharing as far as popularity goes. Only ONE leader in “Follow-the-Leader.” The rest trooped behind in various states of disgruntled eagerness and false enthusiasm hoping they’d be picked to be the next leader.
Our culture is alllll about leaders. Being a go getter, the top of your field, the CEO, the head honcho, #likeaboss. Leadership is a value taught in schools, in after school programs, in extra curricular activities -it’s celebrated, rewarded, recognized, valued- made into slogans, mottos, creeds- to be a leader is to be important, to be MORE important.
Well. I have a few things to say about leadership.
1) Not everyone is a leader.
2) People who try to be leaders who are more incliend to be followers make lousy leaders.
3) Leadership plays right into human nature. To be in charge. To carve destiny with our own hands! It, however, does not mesh so easily with Christ’s teachings on servitude.
4) Our culture dismisses followers. The “little people” on whom the leaders depend. Basically, to be a follower is to be reduced to something between a sheep and a labrador. Useful. Helpful. Desrving of a pat on the head. But too dumb to do anything without a direct order (0r in the case of the sheep, constant herding). This is stupid.
I am, proudly, a follower. It’s more than “not liking” to be in charge, although that’s a good indication. I simply am not very good at leading in most situations. Now, there are times when I will absolutely step up to the plate if there is no one else to do so, but it is beyond stressful for me and I will gladly hand over the reins at the first opportunity. I do not like to be the final say on decisions. I am not good at making quick decisions. I am not clear sighted when it comes to managing people. I have zero head for details such as dates and times and lists, etc. I am not good at being assertive. I am not always quick at grasping the “whole picture”. These are NOT my strengths.
I AM however, a darn good follower. If someone says, “Hey, I need this done within these given parameters” I have no trouble devising a plan, problem solving, figuring out what needs to happen and how to make it so. I enjoy it. I know exactly what is expected of me and I can work hard to make that happen. I’m also an empathetic listener who doesn’t mind fielding the occasional emotional misunderstandings that happen between people in charge and people that aren’t. I am more efficient when I have someone saying, “I need YOU to do X,Y, and Z done.” than someone saying, “You’re in charge of this task. Figure out what needs to happen and who needs to do what and where things need to be and tell everybody what to do.” You need a certain amount of flexibility to be a good follower. I am not saying I don’t get frustrated with leaders-I don’t follow people blindly-but if I trust the leadership I’m under, I thrive. I work well with others-even as introverted as I am-but I do not work well OVER others. I prefer, wholeheartedly, service and partnership to leadership.
This is not a weird backwards attempt to make me sound more spiritual than others. You can’t convince me that Paul was not a leader. Leadership is necessary and good. What I’m trying to say, simply, is that followers are also necessary and good. Followers are equal to leaders, their jobs are just different. Being a follower doesn’t make you less intelligent, less important, less anything. And the reverse is true of being in charge.
Many of us fall on different places along the Leader-Follower meter. I like being, for instance, second in command in an area that I understand really well and am comfortable with to a considerable degree. For example, I LOVED being a paramedic-once I felt more familiar and comfortable with the protocols, the treatment plans, the way calls generally ran, etc. But I loved it best when I was working with another paramedic who had more experience and more assertiveness than I. I worked with some fantastic Basics and Intermediates-but I was always more stressed during those shifts because I was the one with the “highest credentials” on the truck and it made me second guess a lot of decisions I wouldn’t normally have second guessed. If I had stayed working at CCEMS I would never have applied to be a lead medic. It is NOT my cup of tea. At all. Being a paramedic pushed me out of my comfortable “follower” zone on a regular basis, and I hope it is not too much bragging to say that I was actually pretty good at my job, but I really did the best when I felt like I was in a partnership instead of being “in charge.”
So, all you leaders out there-if you have the privelege to be working with some true, comfortable in their own skin followers who aren’t constantly looking for ways to take over your job, you are a thousand times a fool if you take them for granted. Let’s be honest here, you can be as assertive and charismatic as you want, but if you don’t have some intelligent people following you who can get all the things done that you simply can’t do, you are just another voice in the wind fading fast. Followers need to have a good leader to follow, and leaders need good followers to get anything done. It’s a symbiotic relationship, it shouldn’t be a parasitic one.
There you have a few random musings on leadership/follower-ship (I’m totally making that a word). Someone could probably write what I’m trying to say more coherently and succinctly, but I never promised to be either of those things in this blog.