Feature

Leaders and followers

People forming an arrow shape as leaders and followers
Photo: © Roman Fedin / 123RF Stock Photo

The culture today encourages competition. Advertisements give out the message, “Stand out and be noticed.  Succeed all the time.” It’s all about I, Me, Myself. This message implies that all of us should not only excel, but be leaders.  If everyone aspires to lead, then who will follow?

My late husband, Nelson, was a leader. He not only excelled in studies, he founded his own firm and held important positions in non-profit institutions. I am, on the other hand, by and large a follower. When I once mentioned to Nelson that I wished I could be a leader like him, he smiled and said, “Leaders need followers. If a person fancies himself as a leader and has no followers, then he is just fooling himself. Followers may not steal the limelight but they also have an important part to play in society for one-man armies exist only in movies. Basically one should not think in terms of followers and leaders but in terms of a team which is united that makes a difference.”

Think of a stage production. The main actors of the play get the applause but there is an entire team of people backstage who have contributed to the success of the play — stage-hands, backdrop designers, costume designers, and so on. So it is in life. The widowed mother of the young boy who slogged so that he could go to college and become a leader in an organization is also an important person and should not sell herself short.

However, the follower should beware of following a leader without using their grey cells. When the ‘head’ of a social body is followed blindly, this could lead to the so-called ethnic cleansing, an euphemism for mass murder. The annihilation of 6 million Jews during World War II was not just because of the crazy, megalomaniac, evil leader Adolf Hitler but his followers who believed his myth of Aryan superiority. Some were in it for personal gain.

In the Oscar-winning movie Schindler’s List, Oskar Schindler, a German industrialist and himself a member of the Nazi party, could not bear to see his fellow Nazis ruthlessly killing the Jews. He used his own personal wealth to bribe Amon Goth, the commandant of a concentration camp in Poland, to save 1,200 Jews from going to the gas chambers, claiming he needed them to work in his armament factory. Schindler ensured that no usable armaments were produced during the seven months his factory was operational. He took a great risk in not following Hitler’s agenda but this did not deter him from pursuing the path he believed was correct.

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Monica Fernandes is a freelance writer from Mumbai for whom writing is a satisfying hobby. She writes for several magazines including The Teenager Today. She has authored a book for teenagers entitled Towards A Fuller Life published by Better Yourself Books.

Monica Fernandes

Monica Fernandes is a freelance writer from Mumbai for whom writing is a satisfying hobby. She writes for several magazines including The Teenager Today. She has authored a book for teenagers entitled Towards A Fuller Life published by Better Yourself Books.