eThoughts : September 1, 2010: Leadership and Intimacy

I read many years ago that managers try to do things right and leaders try to do the right thing. I’ll take that as those who manage try to follow established guidelines and those who lead try to create new and appropriate guidelines.

It is my thought as well, that leaders are simply those who are able to see clearly and contextually. After all, those darn guidelines are dynamic.

However, what constitutes a good follower? I’m going to suggest that it is not a person who follows another, but one who follows the same clear and contextual seeing that an effective leader is following. When we follow another, it is much too easy to get thrown off course. How many leaders are always seeing clearly?

Thus, one could say that effective leaders know how to follow and effective followers know how to lead. Who does what, when, does so because they see the right thing to do.

All right, this approach doesn’t seem much practiced to me in the world of work. Mostly “leaders” tend to protect the territory. And followers do the same, claiming knowledge when stuff works out as a leader said and eschewing the leadership when stuff doesn’t work out.

I’m not saying that protecting oneself and one’s position is not appropriate. I’m wondering if such protection is the appropriate compass heading.

This musing, however, is not about the work world, it’s about leaders and followers in an intimate relationship.

I’m guessing that one of the problems of intimacy is hierarchy—the alpha-leader and the beta-follower. We do like our labels and something more dynamic is likely to create more of a need to pay attention. That level of attention can seem like too much energy usage. So, in intimacy we tend to favor whatever our personal predilection might be—do we favor a strong leader or do we want to be that strong leader?

Mostly males are tagged to lead and females to follow. The trouble is most don’t do such a static configuration well—why should we when the nature of being is a bit dynamic? Sometimes females lead from the background, learning to dodge male egos by supposedly making males think any great and needed ideas belong to the male. Males need to contribute as well, but need that contribution to be obvious.

Junk all around I think.

What if we got off the static notion of the leadership/follower paradigm? What if we—as in people regardless of gender or ethnicity, etc.—try to do the right thing as a prime compass heading instead of landing on who’s in charge? Who’s in charge depends on who has the clearest vision. In one instance, it might be one person, in another instance, another person. Heck, we might even improve our ability to see the right thing to do simply because we are looking for that as opposed to following an established hierarchy. Biologically, psychologically, socially, environmentally, we tend to do best what we do most. If what we do most is wrong, what we do best is still wrong.

Next time we wonder what needs to be done, let’s try seeing the right thing to do. Whoever is correct, is correct. We follow that vision, not that person. I suspect our egos will be relieved to genuinely help and to genuinely have the help.

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