We Can Lead Our Leaders, but We Can’t Do It Alone

Reading Time: 3 minutes

The election is finally over, and America is gearing up for new leaders in all areas of our government. For some, this is exciting, others scary, but one thing for sure is that things are going to change.

We as a nation have become divided, and to be honest, we have let this separation go too far. Over the last 16 years, the rhetoric has changed from opposing viewpoints to “us vs. them”. If you are not with us, you are against us. It almost like many have picked a home team and a rival, and through thick and thin you root for your home team and against your rival.

This seems to be the case with most hot topics these days. It’s just most obvious in the political world and became especially obvious during this election cycle.

I’ll give you a quick example of how casual it has become. I witnessed a race for a senate seat where both candidates ran attack ads against one another. In each, both used the association to the others “side” as an assault. The Democratic runner used the phrase “conservative values,” and the Republican runner used the word “liberal” as standalone bullet points when discussing their opponent. As if they were bad words or something they should be ashamed of.

The reason this is so messed up is that when they decided to run these ads, they did more than alienate their opponent. All of those who fell under the umbrella of having “conservative values” or being “liberal” also received the same insult. They publicly insulted and shamed the people they are trying to represent. As a voter, this is disheartening.

Diagnosis

People might say this is a result of the system, and it’s the responsibility of our newly elected officials to make the changes they promised. They’re our appointed leaders so they should be leading us down this path. Shouldn’t they?

While there are some truths to this thought, it completely omits acknowledgment of our own influence on the system. The system does influence our culture, but we influence our systems by voting. So what came first? Are we the chicken or the egg?

If you really need that answered, simply spend a little time on social media looking at “hot topic” discussions like Black Lives Matter or Election 2016. Read the comments on Youtube videos about the 2nd amendment. It will be pretty obvious that WE have created this divide, not our system. The system is simply a reflection of the way we treat one another. We have unknowingly, and effectively lead our leaders to represent us on a platform of separation, and we get surprised at the way they treat one another.

So what can we do?

Believe it or not, we have been influencing the system for some time now, so we can band together to bring positive change. We have to start dropping the home team vs. rival mentality and learn how to Respectfully disagree with one another.

This is no easy task. I’m talking about changing the culture of an entire country which doesn’t happen easily or quickly. However, there is good news. People are now talking about this “divide” more than ever. This election shined a light on the problem for everyone to see, and people are starting to care. They’re showing it by doing what I’m doing with this article. They’re finding ways to communicate the need for a change publicly. Why? Because change has to happen as a society before we can expect it to happen within our systems.

Wrap up

We have been leading our leaders for a long time, and we will continue to in the future. The opportunity we have in front of us is to lead by example. We can steer our leaders down a better path by striving to model the behavior we wish them to replicate. We have way more power than you think we simply need numbers.

So, I feel that it is my responsibility to lead by example in my little sphere of influence and try to minimize this divide within my tribe. I don’t know how far that sphere goes, but it isn’t very. I encourage everyone to communicate this message out within your sphere, so we stand a chance to promote change.

As always, please leave me a comment if you want to publicly share your insight. Connect with me on social media if you’re interested in discussing further. And let’s try to start being the leaders we want to see.

Thanks for your time!

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Leading by Following

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Being a leader is a difficult goal to strive for. People say leadership takes courage, character, confidence, charisma, etc.… and they aren’t wrong. However, when defining a leader, people tend to miss the true defining characteristic: someone needs to follow. A leader isn’t a leader if they are leading no one. One could make the connection that a leader is only a leader if they were leading someone. Profound stuff I know, but at its core, the statement is extremely accurate. Any leader of value has always needed one person, and that person is known as the First Follower.

The First Follower is an underrated form of leadership. The leader typically gets the majority of the credit but it’s the First Follower that often finds themselves unknowingly determining a leader’s success. In his TED talk “How to start a movement”, Derek Sivers states that “the First Follower is what transforms a Lone Nut into a Leader.” He continues by showing a video of a lone dancer. At first glance, it is obvious that the lone dancer is very courageous, but also a bit awkward. About 10 seconds in, one person gets up and starts dancing alongside (First Follower). It only takes a second for the First Follower to start encouraging his friends to join. Around 30 seconds, dozens of people are out dancing along with more running into the group every second. With the combination of the Leader and the First Follower, they were able to start a movement within minutes. Below I outlined some responsibilities for the Leader and the First Follower to make this work.

The Leader – Although it takes a strong amount of courage to put yourself out there, its takes almost an equal amount of courage to be the first one to stand up and follow. That is why the moment you receive your first follower, its critical to raise that person up and accept him as an equal. The message must change from “follow me” to “follow us.” Future followers need to trust that everyone out there is in this together. It’s the leader’s responsibility to limit the risk to his follower while enforcing the belief that “we win together, or we lose together, not separately”.

The First Follower – You have taken a risk by being the first one to join your leader. Your job from here is to encourage the people who trust you to trust the leader. At this stage, you are now a leader yourself, so all the above statements apply. Build up anyone that decides to come along, and encourage them to encourage others. When you do, you will instantly see the impact you had on the movement.

As a closing thought, I want to encourage everyone to keep an eye out for an opportunity to be someone’s First Follower. I won’t lie, it may be hard depending on the change you decide to stand up for, but it just might be one of the most rewarding experiences you have. Not to mention it could be the only thing standing in front of success for the leader. I also encourage everyone to watch Derek’s video below. It has heavily influenced my way of thinking. And of course, please leave me comments if you have any insight to share.

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