Striving to Be a Good Follower

Once upon a time (I’ve always wanted to start a blog with that) – there was a high school senior who was filling out a college application for her number one pick in universities. When she came to the question “Would you characterize yourself as a good leader?” she cringed. She thought about her answer for a considerable length of time and decided to go with the “honesty is the best policy” position and answer “No”. She had been in several extra curricular activities, clubs, and initiatives over the years but she had really had no desire to be a leader. She was a good worker. She teamed well and was always the person who could be counted on in the clutch.


A few weeks after sending in her application, she received her reply from the prestigious school. The opening sentence read “Dear Miss Smith. We have accepted 1,143 students for this school year at XYZ University. We have included you in that number because we feel the 1,142 student leaders who have been accepted need at least one student to follow them.”


It seems like everyone today wants to be or claims to be a leader. “Proven leadership abilities” is one of the most common phrases we see in resumes these days. It’s what HR people and recruiters want to see, right? Maybe not.


A good leader is only as good as the team that he leads. A great leader cannot lead a poor team to success. A great team can achieve some success while being led by a crappy leader. What doesn’t work is a room full of leaders and no worker bees. Our society needs to come to terms with the fact that everyone is not and should not be a leader. We need people to execute the ideas and initiatives that leaders come up with.


I knew a gentleman once who kept turning down a promotion to a director level job from a supervisory role. The promotion would have meant a significant increase in pay but also a wide range of new responsibilities. The company couldn’t figure out why he kept turning down the job. Finally, when asked, the man said, “Because I love what I do now. I have the perfect amount of responsibility and I really like the people with whom I work. I would not do well in the director role.” That admission took a lot of wisdom and a lot of guts. More people would be happier in their jobs if they took a long, hard look at the way they work, the talents they have, and the environment in which they work and stopped striving for what the world expected. Strive for what makes YOU happy.

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