Not Just a Follower

Not Just a Follower


Today, I share outrage and a quick refresher.

The outrage:  Here’s what happens: the Detroit Tigers lose, and we blame the authorities.  I’m guilty of this.  I didn’t see why the Tigers manager Jim Leyland put Schlereth in for Scherzer.  But hey, take your pick: from an owner, president, GM, manager, coaches, there’s just no shortage of  blame options.  I’m not outraged by the Tigers loss (they gave Detroiters a heckuva season). I’m outraged at my – and just about everyone else’s – instinct to blame authority figures.

Here’s the other side to the same phenomenon.  Eight weeks into teaching at Berkeley, I am overwhelmed (and yes outraged) at the degree to which students expect the teacher to do all the work.  Yes, I get paid. And yes I am a leadership “expert.”  And yes I have more time than my students to think about the course. But two things drive me nuts:

1.  Thirteen to seventeen years in schools have trained all of my students to be passive.  My 25 students are running at low energy levels, like all those little green circular LED lights on all those appliances in your house.  If I push their buttons, they turn on. But they are overwhelmingly reactive.  I was so proud when two students took turns rising from their chairs – without my permission but also without my resistance – to grab dry erase marker and facilitate a conversation among their peers about what they thought success was.

2.  Leadership experts and books reinforce this passivity with the language of “the” leader, which turns everyone else into just another follower. Although many – if not most – write about “empowering others” or “enabling others,” even these imply and reinforce that people don’t have power to begin with.

So, here’s the refresher I promised: YOU….ARE….A….LEADER.  As such:  do as Kouzes and Posner suggest: You don’t need permission or position to:

  • inspire a shared vision
  • encourage the hearts of others
  • enable them by supporting them to take on “bigger” challenges and to learn
  • challenge yourself by trying new things and constantly learning
  • and model the way by focusing on your values, talking them, and reflecting them in action.

Today YOU will be told – by YOURSELF as well as others – that you are just another follower.  Choose instead to

LEAD with your best self,