Follow Or Lead?

Hello Readers, to be honest, I’ve always wanted to pen down something like this.The topic “Follow or Lead” is something that we have often asked ourselves or at least something I did.The answer to this may vary from person to person.I am calling it a bit researched and am adding my own experience.I have never found evolutionary social psychology particularly appealing but reading helped me explore the reason why some of us lead whereas rest of us follow.This is one of the vital learning curves that happened to me & I thought I must pool it with you all.In this short essay, we will look at why some people lead, why others follow and why it matters.

Leaders,quite rightly, are the heroes, who motivate us to go places that we would never otherwise go.So,in order to lead, good leadership is required. But,quite often, in our understandable effort to grasp and master the skills of leadership, we tend to lose sight of the fact that for leaders to lead,they don’t need exceptional talent but must possess a virtue called “Attitude”. Beyond a certain level, it’s the attitude that counts far, far more than talent. Because talent breeds an ego, and to be precise talent never solves a problem beyond that point.Coming towards my research part, I’ve found many different theories about why people become good leaders. They include:

  • Great Man theory – true leaders are born, not made.
  • Trait theory – analysis of common traits in leaders reveals the formula.
  • Psychoanalytic – the boss takes the role of a father figure to a ‘primitive clan’.
  • Situational – leaders emerge in specific circumstances that make them shine.
  • Distributed – leadership works best when it is spread around.
  • Leaders often possess the Dark Triad of personality attributes: narcissism, Machiavellian, and psychopathy – they tend to be selfish and economical with the truth. It’s a strategy that works because they get the money and the women.

Leadership is often a lonely road.But before leading others, we should learn to lead ourselves.Leading yourself requires envisioning a better future, setting worthy goals, and following through with sustainable impact. To walk on this lonely road,we need to keep ourselves inspired, motivated, and energized.We need to lead ourselves with our heart, purpose, and devotion.

Now talking about the follow part.Followers’ motivations fall into two categories—rational and irrational. The rational ones are conscious and therefore well-known. They have to do with our hopes of gaining money, status, power, or entry into a meaningful enterprise by following a great leader—and our fears that we will miss out if we don’t. More influential, much of the time, are the irrational motivations that lie outside the realm of our awareness and, therefore, beyond our ability to control them. For the most part, these motivations arise from the powerful images and emotions in our unconscious that we project onto our relationships with leaders.If we look into the details of followership,it suggests that this can be a great survival strategy.Backing the right person to follow has reaped great benefits over the millennia. Kellerman’s taxonomy of followership shows 5 types:

  • Isolates – they are apathetic, but can be dangerous to the leader if ignored
  • Bystanders – little or no commitment to anyone
  • Middling – reasonably satisfied participants
  • Activists – highly engaged and consistently work hard
  • Diehards – they’ll do anything for the boss

Where leaders become too powerful, or even corrupt, followers develop strategies to overcome them.It’s amusing to think that we still vote for tall politicians, and bosses who look athletically stronger than others, but it appears to be true. c’est la vie.

Now that we are aware of both the things,the question still lingers.What to do? Should we lead or should we follow?
The answer to these questions lies within yourself.One might encounter a typical situation of Head vs Heart.How do we lead with our head while we follow our heart or vice versa.Heart is a center in the human self where will, intellect, feeling, emotion and vision converges. Blending your head and heart is essential to get the answer to the lead or follow dilemma.Just like introspection and retrospection help you to know yourself.See what you do when you are confronted with a difficult situation.If you want to lead,there should be a purpose.Purpose gives rise to vision,mission and values.But if you are following something,devotion should be there. The pursuit with discipline.We don’t necessarily need to lead by example. The only thing that matters is the ongoing process of keeping your vision and values before you and aligning your life to be congruent with those most important things.

Finally, when in doubt, be the one to stand up and do the right thing.Standing up doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to lead.Always take a conscious effort to find the good in people,to look for allies, to build functional social networks and quality workplace behaviours. You will experience resistance and difficulties. But in the end you will win.

 So this was one of the learning chapters of my life.De facto, each & every person goes through this phase (in his/her career) . Thank you so much for spending your precious time in reading this article. I’m rapacious for your remarks, comments, suggestions & will be welcomed wholeheartedly. 🙂 


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