When to follow


April 25, 2016 by helenwaldron

In my day, in Britain, having the words „easily led“ in your school report was just about the most damning description the teacher could give you. The leader of the gang was the intelligent one, the one with the initiative to drum up followers to carry out their crimes.

Nowadays, you can go on to any number of internet sites and brush up on your professional leadership skills. Just google it. You’ll see that boss is BAAD, while leader is GOOOD.

So where does reality come into this? Can we all be leaders?

Yes, and no, I’d argue.

On the one hand I truly believe that we all have the potential to be leaders if the circumstances are right. You need to be in the right position at the right time with the right skills, and then off you go.

On the other hand a part of me really wearies of our constant title (and self-worth) inflation.

Young people are desperate to go to university, not because they are interested, not because they have a goal for after university, but simply because you’re a „thicko“ if you don’t.

That’s an awful lot of thickoes doing useful work amongst us.

In over 30 years’ of working life I don’t think I’ve ever been in a department where the staff have not walked around muttering about having „not enough indians and too many chiefs.“

Yet followers simply have a bad reputation. Following is unoriginal, following is brainless.

Supporting is acceptable, you can’t always reinvent the wheel.

So this is a call for everyone to use their skills, to be proud of the part you have played in a project and lend yourself to something that is worth doing.

Don’t follow mindlessly, but if you can assess that a situation is worth supporting, then follow support, whatever.

Put yourself behind the project, not in front of it.

You can’t have a movement without supporters.

Join the movement.





7 thoughts on “When to follow

  1. Richi says:

    I’m your follower, Helen!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Niki says:

    Enjoy the stories!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Funnily enough, I had a very similar thought recently when reading the website of a very well-known blogger who gives advice about management skills, amongst other things. He had written an article about how to be a great boss, which is fine as far as it goes, but something about the tone made me uncomfortable. I didn’t like the implication that my only two alternatives are either being a leader or slavishly obeying a leader. I don’t think I fit very easily into either of these categories.

    Liked by 1 person

    • helenwaldron says:

      I agree completely. I find all this (stares into distance) leadership advice a little suspect at times. Behind most leaders there is some sort of support network to connect their leadership to the reality of our day to day actions. There’s a nice little TED talk on this subject here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RXMnDG3QzxE I didn’t include it because it didn’t quite fit the tone, but it argues quite logically that there are no leaders without this bridge to the “followers”. I personally see these roles as fluid. Anyone can be a leader at times, but we can’t all lead all the time.

      Liked by 1 person

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