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Saturday, May 20, 2017

Follow the Leader: Thoughts on Leadership and Followership

One day recently I had a discussion with my daughter.  She was among a group of boys, some of whom were picking on a younger boy.  Long story short, she decided to chime in on the poking fun at the younger boy.  When I get wind of it, I let her know that wasn't acceptable behavior and that I'd better not get wind of that sort of behavior again.  Obviously, you appeal to her sense of consequences, but even more, I wanted to appeal to her pride and self-respect too.

I said to her, "When you followed the behavior of others who are making bad choices boys are you being a leader or a follower?"  She said, "A follower".   I then asked her, "If you stand up and said that the mocking behavior wasn't okay or had walked away and possibly told an adult, would you be a leader or follower?".  She said, "A leader".  So, then I said, which would you rather be?  She indicated she preferred being a leader.

So, I kind of of laid out to her my thoughts about being a leader, a follower, and both, especially as it relates to a kid.

  • Strives to do that which which her or she knows is right, for its own sake.
  • When confronted with pressure to do the wrong thing stands up to those pressuring him or her, walks away in protest and/or when necessary relay the problem to others in authority--except where they themselves are the authority to handle it.
  • Sets a positive example.  When a situation comes up which tempts them not to do the right thing, they resist that temptation.   
    • Making bad choices leads to the tendency to make other bad choices.
    • Even when you think no one is paying attention to your choices, often time they are or will find about them.
    • If you make bad choices, you make it easier for others to, especially those who by virtue of age or position you should be leading.
  • Even leaders have to answer to someone to.  
  • Good leaders become and stay good leaders when they realize that there is a time to follow the advice or example of others.

  • Not every one can be a leader or precisely, you cannot be a leader in every situation.  Some situations dictate only one leader at a time.  For example, there can only be one President at a time.
  • Sometimes you don't have the knowledge/training, experience or expertise to lead in a given situation.
    • For example, you need special training to be a police officer. 
    • For example, you need to be old enough and have been trained on the proper handling of fireworks (and depending on types or location, certified)
  • It is okay to be a follower when others in charge or others like you are setting a good example or doing the right thing.  When they aren't, it can be wrong or dangerous to be a follower.
  • Followers usually have a time in a place in which their leadership is necessary.
  • In some situations, by following the example of a good leader, you are actually leading others around you.
    • If you follow the advice & example of sports star who exhorts you to "complete your education" or "don't smoke" or a message like that you are setting a good example yourself.  Siblings and kids that look up to you, will see the positive example you set and be at least a little less likely to quit school or start smoking.
  • Almost without exception, most people who end up being good leaders had at least one person in their life whom they followed that set an example.

I guess the takeaway I hope to give from this post is the following:  Be a leader when you should, a follower when it is proper and realize that whether you see yourself as a leader or follower, you should always do your best and do the right thing regardless.   After all, it is very likely that you will have to play each role at some point (and sometimes at the same time).  So, doing your best and proper will help those who are leading you AND will set a good example for those whom you are leading.

- Cheers

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