People say you are either a leader or a follower. They insist that there is nothing wrong with being a follower, as long as you know who you are following. But it is an understood implication that it is better to be a leader. In my experience, this is because when most people talk about leaders and followers, it is a nicer way of saying users and those who get used. Still ok with being a follower?
But I think that these categories are not inclusive of the whole population. Sure, you can’t be a leader without people to lead but this does not make those people automatic “followers” as we typically think of the term. There are many different kinds of “followers” and most aren’t followers at all.
A true follower is blind. They are easily swayed for no particular reason. They are also pretty rare. Most people have a reason behind their following and these reasons are remarkably similar to the motivations of leaders. Leaders use followers to do their work. Followers use leaders to bear the weight of responsibilities. It’s more of a give-and-take relationship than most people assume.
That brings us to the strategic followers. These are the people who may seem naive but everyone is secretly jealous of them. Not much is expected of them. This isn’t because they aren’t capable, it’s because they want you to think they aren’t capable. They don’t get a lot of credit for the potential they have or any efforts that they put in but they are satisfied with their supporting role. They mostly get away with avoiding any scrutiny or blame for mistakes. These people intentionally put themselves in the back seat where life is much more enjoyable and stress-free. I honestly wish I had this kind of temperament. It sounds much more fun.
But my favorite kind of follower is the puppet master. They are the Phantom to some poor leader’s Christine. They purposefully allow someone else to take the lead, only to manipulate them into doing exactly what they want. They sit back and relax, pulling all the strings while others think they are the ones in charge. If they seem like a quiet sidekick, it’s because that’s the best role to be in for their master plan. They have the finesse and technique to convince people to do what they want while not having to bear any of the burden of responsibility. These are the ones who sometimes become evil geniuses. They have the power to mess with whatever they want and not have to take the blame for the consequences. And somehow, despite their tendency to stay in the background and control things from a distance, when things go well, they end up getting the credit for it. They twist things to have the best of both worlds. Hiding behind the mask in bad times, rising to the top for the good. It sounds improbable but I guarantee everyone knows at least one of these people. But you probably wouldn’t realize it if you did. After all, they are just that good.
Now this is not to minimize the talent of leadership. Every follower (of any kind) needs a good leader. Leaders have the power to bring out the best in those around them. But, as the saying goes, with great power comes great responsibility. And if you like responsibility, then more power to you. But I don’t blame followers for not choosing this way of life. It takes a special person to know what to do with so many different kinds of people. How use them without abusing them. All leaders are users, though not necessarily in a bad way. But, not all followers allow themselves to be used. They simply have learned how to play the game without having to take all the risks. That sounds pretty powerful to me.