Image: Neil Mackinder (CC BY 2.0)
Unthinking Followers. Image: Neil Mackinder (CC BY 2.0)

What makes a follower?  Is it okay to be a follower, and if so, when should you follow, and why?

There are those that follow like sheep, stupidly, out of some instinct-like need to stay with the heard.  They don’t really add value; just make up the numbers.

 Image: Howard o. Young  (CC BY 2.0)
Loyal Follower. Image: Howard o. Young (CC BY 2.0)

There are those who follow like dogs, loyally and faithfully, but with little critical judgment.  Beyond companionship (which is a lot, I love my dog!), they add little to the quest.

Then there are those who follow because they choose to.  Thoughtfully.  They may have a destination in mind but they need help to get there.  They choose to follow because they judge that you will help them do so.  Or, they’re not sure of their own destination, but they see or sense that the destination you’ve chosen is a good one.

This last group are less like followers, more like fellow travelers.  They are the kind you want with you.  They will add value – lend their own passion – to the quest.  They will engage.

This is also is the kind of “follower” you want to be.

Everyone, and I do mean everyone, is both a leader and a follower.  Every human is an island, and every human is not.

We are all, ultimately, on our own.  We are individual souls and of necessity each of us must think for himself or herself.  That’s the leader in you. When you analyze a situation, make choices, and initiate action, you are “leading”, no matter how small or large the scale, nor whether you go it alone or engage others.

None of us, though, can have much success (or fun), on our own.  We engage others, cooperate, help each other, trade.  When you choose by considered judgment to support a cause initiated by someone else, you are a “follower”.  A thoughtful follower.

In both cases, taking the lead or following someone else’s, judgment and choice are required.  In both cases your independence is critical.  As soon as you give it up, you are a blind follower.  An unthinking follower.  Nobody should be an unthinking follower, and nobody should want unthinking followers.  Only those who know how to lead (read, are independent thinkers) make good “followers”, and only those who know when to follow and why, make good leaders.