What’s A Leader Without Some Followers?


This week I would like to praise the most unsung of heroes — the Follower.

It seems that in today’s society, everyone is being groomed to be a Leader. There are books on it, seminars about it and all kinds of high-priced mentors profiting from it.

But if these means to an end are successful and our nation turns out an entire generation of leaders, whom are these leaders going to lead? Who’s going to hang back and do the work, mop up the floor, put the pieces back together? Because if there’s one thing I know about leaders, it’s that they like to be at the front of the pack yelling “Charge!” and plowing on ahead. Most of them never even think about the havoc they wreak along the way.

Not that we don’t need them. I’m not saying that. But where would Alexander Graham Bell have been without Watson at the other end of the line? Where would Edmund Hillary have been without his sherpas? And what would Bill Gates have achieved without Paul Allen?

Because if you yell “Charge!” and nobody’s following you, well, that’s a failed mission. If you say, “Watson, come here! I want you!” and nobody answers, you don’t know if you’ve communicated or not. A tree may as well have fallen in the woods… if you know what I’m saying. There has to be someone to answer the phone, carry the tents, run out for pizza. You know, someone to do the work.

So all hail the lowly follower, the guy with no ego but enough self-esteem to get the job done — and done right. Did Watson creep into Bell’s spotlight? No. I don’t even know Watson’s first name. Here’s a guy who could’ve written a tell-all book about his employer’s famous friends and wacky quirks, but did he do it? No. He simply went home and kept his mouth shut about the fact that the telephone may have been invented that day. (Please don’t try to fact-check this information… I like my limited knowledge the way it is!)

Would Hillary have made it to the top of the mountain if he’d had to carry all his own gear? No. I’ve seen people collapse at theme parks under the load of their children’s souvenirs and soft drinks.

And yes, Gates might have been able to get Microsoft going alone, but I’ll bet you that Allen ran out to fetch pizza more than once.

So, as unsung heroes, I tip my hat to them.

But when it comes to the most unsung of the unsung, I have my favorites — parents. Say what you will, there is no comparison to the labors of the parents of young children. Moms “bring home the bacon, fry it up in the pan” as the song goes, but dads get the job done, too. Everybody’s wiping noses, bandaging knees, helping with homework. Everyone works 24/7 to get their kids off to the best start possible. And why? So their kids can someday become… leaders, of course.

But whether or not they succeed as leaders, they may succeed as parents. And that’s important, too.

Just don’t expect any medals for it.