Have you ever played Follow the Leader when you were a little kid? A person is appointed to lead, and whatever they did you were supposed to do without question. It was a fun and harmless game. But what if the leader of the child’s game would have jumped off a cliff? Would you have followed or would you have questioned whether that was a good decision to make? Basically in the rules of the game you were to follow without question.
I have heard parents make the remark about their children that their child is a follower rather than a leader and it worried them.
As adults we still play the game but it is real in what we call the game of life. The dictionary defines leader as: the person who leads or commands a group, organization or country.
At some time or other we have all been part of a group in school, college, our workplace or in our social and personal life. It has been said birds of a feather flock together. The phrase has been in use since 1545. It means those of similar taste congregate in groups.
I find that to be true in my own life. I tend to migrate to the authors, readers, compassionate, caring groups. I have been led astray during my lifetime when I hung around those who were critical and belligerent about almost everything. It is very easy for me to be that way, especially when the only ones I am with lend to that category. During those times I did not like myself very much, and I have to watch that I don’t get sucked into that abyss again, because we feed off each other. I followed a leader that led me down a path I couldn’t feel good about.
I was reading Max Lucado’s book “In the Eye of the Storm” and that is what brought about this blog post. It zeroed in on my thinking about what a good leader is. Of course, Max was talking about Jesus, which brought me thoughts about where I have been the leader and also a follower.
I don’t think I have always been a good leader. In my younger years I could have been the bully, bullying people into volunteering for things they didn’t want to do. I have probably mislead them on judgements that I now know are false when it comes to other people and my opinion. Thinking back on it my problem was insecurity and so if I judged someone, I thought it might make me feel better about myself, only it had the opposite effect.
Life is a learning curve when it comes to leadership and following, whether you in grade school, high school, college or being an adult.
Bullying is big in the world now, not just in school but our society, and to change it we have to start in our homes and in our schools. We have to look at our actions and how we are leading our families, our friends and organizations. Little children aren’t born with hate and judgement in their hearts, we teach them that by being parents who do not monitor our behavior. We teach them that by allowing social media and television to give them the message if we treat others badly it is acceptable.
I think of when the Bunkers and All In The Family, first came on television. Of course it was funny, but was it really funny the way Archie treated Edith? I never did like the Honeymooners even as a child, because of the way Ralph treated Alice. Because of what I was seeing I accepted it in my own life, laughing off the jabs when it hurt inside. Isn’t that what we were expected to do?
Here is what I think leadership is NOT. Being a leader is not leading by making others feel less then, belittling or threatening. It is not leading others to mimic the same behavior in our society. It is not leading by fear. Leadership is not building a group that stands for anything even related to bullying.
A father and mother lead their family not by prejudice, hate and fear and bad behavior; they lead their family by teaching their children respect, integrity and trust for themselves and others.
Being a follower you can become a leader if you see you are following behavior that harms others, and make the decision to not accept the behavior of the person you are following. I know many good people that follow a leader whose leadership is harming others and make excuses for whatever reason I do not understand.
We can whine and moan and berate the things that are going on with our children, but we are not going to change it or stop it unless we as adults show that leadership by denouncing bullying as being wrong, and quit making excuses for it on any level from the top to the very bottom of the rung.
Are you the leader or the follower? Is the person you are following teaching you integrity and compassion for others, or are they urging you to jump off that cliff from a place you may not be able to come back from? The choice is yours.