I often wonder why people need, or even desire, a leader. In times of woe and misery, instead of turning inward, people seem to cry out for someone to save them. To lead them out of the wilderness. It's yet another mystery I cannot solve.
I was raised to not look for others to extricate me from my problems. the constant refrain was "Don't come to me with your problems." Since most, if not all, my problems were of my own making, it was up to me to work through them. That did not mean I could not seek advice or counsel; that I could not learn from others. It simply meant that I was the one who had to make the decisions and determine my own course.
Not that I was very good at it, mind you. I often found myself in deeper muck than when I started. Some say that it's the best way to learn... by making mistakes. I am not so sure.
Still, I never became much of a follower.
When I was still working, we were given a new Operations Manager. He was a former Ford engineer of some sort where he was likely just another cog in the machine and AT&T gave him the opportunity to be a bit more. To wit, run our office. If he did well, he'd be on his way... if he didn't he'd be sent on his way... if you get my drift.
In any event, when he came to our office he held one of those meetings where we would get to know him and he could size us up as we sized him up. Fairly fresh from getting his MBA, he had all the buzzwords and managing techniques fresh in his mind. He still believed in them as he hadn't had a chance to actually try them out in the Real World.
He asked us all, in turn, "Who do you work for?"
The answer to this would give him, I suppose, some idea of how we viewed our place in the scheme of things. We were expected to rattle off our immediate supervisors whereupon he would make some pitch about how we worked for the company and/or the customer, yadda, yadda, yadda.
So I said "Myself."
After a second or two of silence while he placed me in the "this guy is gonna be trouble" category, he encouraged me to elaborate.
It is simple... I am a harder taskmaster for myself than any boss I ever had. I get paid by the company and they assign me work but I am the one who decides how I go about it.
This has always been my way. It has made me a poor team member at times. It makes me a rotten follower. It does not make me a good leader either.
It also raises the question of why do we, as a species, seek out leaders? Many times in our collective history, following a leader has been the poor decision to make. Consider Germany and Italy in the 30's. Blindly following the Emperor in Japan didn't turn out too well either.
Julius Caesar set a standard for Rome in terms of how it was to be run. From a republic to a dictatorship. Some of the emperors were good, some were bad. People tend to forget that Rome lasted another 400 years after Caesar's assassination.
The problem of inadvertently selecting a bad leader is eased a bit by democratic governments with regular plebiscites. After all, the problem can be corrected at the next election. Perhaps. Or perhaps not. Much depends upon the quality of the candidate opposing the incumbent leader.
Still, I see way too many people in this world all too willing to elect (and re-elect) "strongmen" to lead them. They are also all too willing to follow the lead of someone who is a disaster for the society. We do not seem to learn from history.
Those of us who eschew leaders will always be puzzled by those who do not.
Thomas Paine once said:
"Lead, follow, or get out of the way."
I prefer to get out of the way.
A Night Unremembered
6 years ago