Monday, February 1, 2016

32. Not a leader

I feel like I've been told my whole life that I am a leader. It was one of those things that stuck with me through scouts and high school and maybe even a little bit of college.

I'll be honest, I don't think I am a great one, or even a good one in most situations. I think the whole thing started because I was a well-behaved kid who was reasonably smart and gave a crap about other people.

I don't think I'd be a great politician or in business. I sometimes have a hard time making decisions (or do I?). I'm not always sure of myself in situations. I get easily annoyed and upset by people. And I don't always enjoy being out in front in the spotlight unless the attention is on my own terms. For example, I loved my column. I also enjoy giving presentations. I must be some sort of masochist.

Those sorts of things are on my own terms though. I can craft what I want to say or write. My message is delivered the way I want it to.

I get overwhelmed sometimes by too many choices. (Just see me when I get to the yogurt aisle of the grocery store. There’s just too much friggin yogurt.) I tend to take into account what other people are thinking or feeling too much when trying to make a decision. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it doesn’t always make for decisive action.

However, I think I am a great follower. We don’t talk about great followers all that often. I’m loyal. I listen and I like to get things done. I’m pragmatic and when something goes against my morals, I let people know.

I’m about to make a giant leap here and I’ve never been in a situation like this, but the Civil Rights movement needed followers to make it coalesce and grow. Not everyone could be Martin Luther King or Malcom X or John Lewis. I wonder about all the people whose names were never in the newspapers, but quietly soldiered on for the cause.

There is a lot of education about leadership, but there isn’t much about being a follower. I wonder if we think being a follower is easy or not as noble as a leader. I look at the Timberwolves’ Kevin Garnett vs. the Lakers’ Kobe Bryant. Bryant is in his last season, yet he continues to play like he’s the team’s on-court leader. He’s not.

Kevin Garnett knows he’s not going to be the most productive player for the Wolves. He’s still a leader in many ways: emotionally, in practice, and as a mentor. But he’s probably not going to be taking the ball for a last second shot.

I’m sure everybody running for president considers themselves to be leaders. But how many of them will be good followers if they don’t win? Will they rally around their nominee or sulk?

Leaders are great, but followers are seriously underrated.

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