We are all trying to lead. We want to be the boss. The one in charge. We want to call the shots and have others do our bidding. We want to be the captain steering the ship, the General giving the orders.
Each of us has charge over exactly one person on this planet – ourselves. And it stands to reason that if we are responsible for that one person, we should want that one person to succeed in every way. Fame. Fortune. Power. We want it all for our one person. We want control. We want…deity.
All of this causes quite a quandary. Because a) there are billions of others trying to do exactly the same thing as we are and b) life is bigger and more complex and more true than any one human could hope to embody or contain.
Leaders Who Follow
The result of this chaos is, much against a part of our will, we are forced to follow something. Or someone. We have to trust something when our own capacity fails. When we reach our limits, there is something external we must commit ourselves to.
The question about what we follow is perhaps more important than what we will do when we lead. Perhaps they are two ways of asking the same thing.
We waste so much time trying to accumulate power we don’t even know what to do with. We try to get people to follow us because we believe leadership is some marker for or indication of success.
Case and point. We end up following what we believe will a) get us closer to the money and fame we desire and b) we will be able to usurp when the time is right.
We follow what matters to us. No matter what false humility we claim, we follow what we believe is in our best interest. What matters to us most.
The healthiest people realize that there is some letting go, some sacrifice of the ego, that is actually better for us than the vice grips we put on our own agenda. There is a weird sort of meaning in purpose that brings more life as we let go of more of it. Simplicity. Community. These are ideas that seem to be uninteresting for our self-interest and then totally against it. The truth is they are neither. And both.
And the more we tap into the true why behind our values, the more we discover this dichotomy to be true.
We use a lot of terms for it – values, purpose, mission. The truth is this is what matters to us. It is what we long to follow. To chase. To pursue. We will follow the people and the institutions that promote our values.
If we have a true perspective, we will be able to discern the people and the institutions that really promote our values and the ones who just pretend to. It is a tricky and subtle difference. But we will find it if we are looking for it. Even within our own hearts, there is the difference.
Take a break from chasing leadership. From trying so hard to be the one in control. Ask yourself how to be an effective follower (which is the first step to leading well) and exactly what it is you are willing to follow.