This post is in response to The Daily Post’s Topic #222: do you prefer to lead or follow?
This last school year has been a lesson in leadership.
I like to think that I prefer to follow. I’m always following something–rules, teachers, parents, siblings, friends–sometimes to the point where it can cause problems with other people. But I’ve also always thought of myself as completely independent in some respects–my responsibilities to myself and other people.
Yes, I realize that having responsibilities to other people is a form of following. In fact, that’s exactly what I’ve always thought of it. I don’t see myself as a leader–I never have, and probably never will. But it’s my commitment to other people that has led others to see me as a leader, and–to my surprise–a good one at that.
In my opinion, helping somebody, whether it be because of a mutual desire or friendship–or both–is not a form of leadership, but a sort of partnership. While I might help a friend learn their music, I don’t see them as inferior; rather, they are my equal. Maybe they don’t read their music as quickly, or maybe they struggle with math or history in ways that I don’t. But chances are they have something I can also never have, something equally as important in their lives. Maybe they can draw, or sing, or dance. Maybe they’re better at math, or science, or history. It reminds me of something my mother always told me: “Whatever you do in life, there’s always someone that’s better.”
If my commitment to other people in helping them reach their goals has caused others to see me as a leader, then so be it. But I have to wonder–is that really what a leader is? Someone who will follow others, help them, not because they know they themselves will gain from it, but because they honestly care for the person being helped? Someone who prefers to follow or move on his or her own, but will lead in little ways if given the chance? A person who can’t stand the idea of ever being superior to someone else? That’s certainly far from being in the middle–but is that person a leader, or a follower?
And what of politics? Are these people really leaders, who see themselves as so far above the rest of the populace? Who do things for a commonality, rather than one person at a time? What’s the good of majority if everyone is supposed to have equal rights?
What good is any leader if they hold themselves so far above everyone else that the only opinion anyone can have of them is that they’ve decided to play god?