How to Determine If You Are a Leader or a Follower

One thing I’ve always admired was intelligence. I was so in awe of smart people. I wanted to be a super smart person. And in fact, I was and am pretty smart. But I’m no genius. And for the longest time I thought I was fairly stupid. I compared myself to my mother, a Valedictorian, my father, a CPA, and my brother, genius IQ. So compared to them, I was kind of stupid.

But I wasn’t. I just have a smart family. When I graduated with honors from both high school and college and was nominated to Who’s Who and was a member of several honor societies, I figured it was just because I worked harder than others to achieve the same results. But eventually, I realized they didn’t put me in those advanced classes in high school because I was stupid. I had to be at least above average.

Here’s what I couldn’t figure out. They put me in advanced classes both literature and math. I did great in the writing part, but not so hot in the math. In math, I was put back in regular classes. Math just wasn’t my forte. I was confused. Was I smart, or was I dumb? And how did this information help me to determine if I am a leader or a follower?

Here’s how. I’ve always thought I was creative. I love art, all kinds. I’m great at figuring out alternative solutions, if I try hard enough. And I love to decorate and remodel. And I don’t like to do what I’m told. I want to do what I choose. So, I figured I must be a leader.

Here’s the “but”. But, to redecorate, I had to put the picture on the wall before I knew if it was going to work. I had to paint the wall before I knew if it was the right color. I had to install things before I knew if I liked them. I had to furnish the room and then rearrange as necessary. I was not able to see things in my mind well enough to know that this is how it’s going to be. So you’d think redecorating would be frustrating for me. The same with math. I can’t see these abstract calculations in my mind. I have capacity for part of it, but at some point, my Neanderthal genetics come into play, and I just tap out. I can’t see past a certain point. The reason I love decorating is because I love color, and so I’m flooded with dopamine when I decorate, more than enough to overcome the annoyance of having to change my mind. There is no color in math, and so I don’t love math. I can’t play the piano, in spite of having tried many times. Why? Because I can’t see all those keys and notes and chords in my mind. I can’t translate them from the written page to the keys. I can’t form them in my mind and put them into my hands. In art, I love the colors, but what I paint is usually by looking at what someone else has done. It may be my version, but it’s not completely original. As far as I’m concerned, it puts me dead center in the mainstream of following. My creativeness comes not from figuring things out in my head, but from testing many varieties. I come up with great solutions, eventually. I’m not fast. I’m slow. But I get it the way I want it.

I like literature because I have thoughts and I write them down. I have the original idea in my head, and I’m translating it into words. I’m good at that. But the types of things in my head are not analytical. They are emotional. I can see things and remember them. I am great at memorizing. I am good at test taking. Writing is reiterating words and letters I’ve seen before. Memorizing is reiterating. Test taking is reiterating. I’m really good at reiterating, not so good at original.

That’s why I believe I am a follower. Reiterate is just that, following. Being truly creative is leading. But what either has in their minds is only half the equation. And I quote Neil deGrasse Tyson, “It’s not enough to be right. You also have to be effective.” And that’s what leadership requires, being effective. So, if I’m truly creative and don’t ever express myself, then I’m no leader. And if all I ever do is reiterate, but I keep changing the output until it’s something new, and then I present it to the world, then I’ve been much more of a leader than he who was truly creative.

And so my final conclusion is this: Anyone can be a leader, and anyone can be a follower. It doesn’t depend on your intelligence. It depends on your effectiveness. So, be effective and you’re likely to be a leader.

Quote: “Always be yourself, unless you can be a dinosaur. Then, always be a dinosaur.”

Lisa Hering, April 9, 2020

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