Your Leaders Work For You, Not You For Them

Most people think about their superiors in the wrong way.

Most people have this attitude, in politics, or business, or whatever, that the leaders are heroes who will solve all your problems and vanquish the fiends that are keeping you down. The real world does not work like this, and to those people, leaders are constant sources of disappointment.

Some people, on the other hand, see leaders as bullies, thieves, tyrants, who would dominate and to whom you owe nothing but resistance.

These are naieve fantasy attitudes. In the real world, problems are messy, and no one person could ever come in and solve them. Most leaders are not tyrants, and the ones who are rarely look like the kind of comic book Nazi stereotype everyone’s obsessed with.

People look at leaders and adopt a follower mentality. I don’t understand it myself, but it must be deeply seated in the human psyche. They fall in line, sap themselves of agency, get burned, and get upset when that happens.

But the best leaders are not those who bark orders and wait for you to follow. The best leaders are people who get things done, and empower their followers to do the same.

The best leaders need the best followers. The best leader isn’t worth a damn when her followers are hordes of unthinking drones. Zergrushing works in Starcraft, but the real world is not a sci-fi shoot-em-up. The best leaders need smart, capable followers, to build a team and make great things happen.

In whatever you’re doing, in pursuit of any goal, an invaluable attitude to have is that you and your leaders are on the same side, in pursuit of that goal. You are working together. They are empowering you to execute on whatever you need to do to get everyone to that goal. They find roadblocks and remove them, before you hit them. They help everyone be just that much better. I like to imagine that they’re the casters with all the auras, to keep this Blizzard metaphor going.

Taking this attitude is empowering and liberating. On the one hand, cooperation is generally a good way to solve problems. Approaching a problem with an attitude that your leader is a fascist imposing on you by force, is not a great strategy. On the other hand, it lets you take a step back and think: is my leader actually doing this? Is he actually empowering you? Or is he a tyrant?

When you look at leaders this way, choosing to follow becomes more significant. It becomes a choice. You keep your agency. Just as you chose to subject yourself to their leadership, you can choose to walk away. While they help you achieve your goals, walk alongside them. If they abuse their authority, fire them and find ones who won’t. Your loyalty is precious. They are not entitled to it. They have to earn it. They work for you.

Remember that gaffe, a while back, when Mitt “I bet you regret demonizing me in press now, huh?” Romney said he likes being able to fire people? This is exactly the right attitude to have. Hold your leaders accountable. If they are not doing a good enough job, fire them and find better ones. By which I mean, stop following them, and follow someone else.

This post is short, because there’s only so many different ways I can say this. Your leaders work for you. They work for you. Fire them if they’re slacking on the job. They are there, because you choose to let them be there. They are there because they make your life easier. And if they don’t do these things, don’t let them be there.

Don’t let them sap your agency. You are a human, with your own thoughts and dreams and hopes and goals! When you choose to follow a leader, you do not shelve all of that to do what they say. You decide, each and every day, that this person is helping me get closer to my goals. You collaborate with them, working cooperatively, not antagonistically, to get whats best for you. You follow them because they’re leading where you want to go. You do what they tell you to do, not because they told you to, but because you have chosen to. And you could just as easily have chosen not to.

Y’all might think I’m trying to make some wider point about politics, what with the Theocracy of Kek being founded next week and all, but I’m not. This is simpler, more mundane. This isn’t an ideological thing, but practical advice for living a happy, healthy life. Always remember that you’re in the driver’s seat. Following a leader is cruise control. You do it because it makes it easier for you to go where you wanted to go. Where you wanted to go. You turn it off when it stops being helpful.

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About Simon Penner

Injecting compassion and humanity into political discussion. Disagreements welcome, but you must be kind and charitable.
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2 Responses to Your Leaders Work For You, Not You For Them

  1. John Wittle says:

    I feel like this is a good insight, but that most people come to it through economics. That is, the realization that employers and employees are two equal halves of a single transaction, and that both sides depend on each other equally. It’s an important insight from a libertarian perspective, because if the employee *believes* that the employer has all the power, then this view will be confirmed in his mind when he thinks about how the employer can fire him at any time. It’s like a game of Iterated Single-Lane Bridge Chicken. Both players are *clearly* equal. Yet, if player 2 has won the last 5000 games, and you are a new player, you will probably cave in and back up, simply because it *seems* as though Player 2 really might not stop, might not even know how to stop.

    But the moment you realize that winning the past 5000 games has nothing to do with this next iteration of chicken, you can go back to having equal power.

    I feel like this is an extremely common resolution to the libertarian problem of “what about the imbalanced employer/employee power distribution”. And I feel like that’s where most people approach the insight from.

    Like

  2. Tell us more about this Theocracy of Kek…

    Like

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