Thursday, August 22, 2013

"I Must Follow Them"

A French politician, Alexandre Auguste Ledru-Rollin, is attributed with the following quote, "There go the people. I must follow them, for I am their leader." I keep thinking about it since I heard about him a few minutes ago.

My quest to watch The West Wing episodes continues. In the last episode I watched (2:14) a statistical advisor tells one of the President's advisors of the politician and quote. The context has to do with some info they got back from polling. The presidential advisor thinks the numbers mean that if they pursue certain policy, they will lose certain districts/states. The advisor says the numbers mean to her that they should push harder, engage more - or else risk being like the French politician.

Whenever marketers speak, they always - or atleast often - talk about what the person they want to target wants. The suggestion is to be where they are, to address their questions, their concerns. It is all about them. If you want their business, essentially you have to let them lead by where they are.

I am not going to say this is a bad thing, but it has often struck me as manipulative.

In thinking about this quote/idea, Steve Jobs also comes to mind. Something I saw suggested (so I do not know if it is true) that he said something to the effect of how do people know what they want if they haven't seen it yet? Whether it is true that it came from him, or not, it is a good question.

How can someone lead if they are only following? How many people who market to other people may have good thoughts and ideas that get buried or sidelined in the pursuit of saying the "right" thing to gain someone's business?

Maybe some people aren't meant to lead. Maybe the approach I have described works effectively - for them. I question it when it comes to me, though. I question it because I question so much about where many things are headed. I so often feel like I am going against the tide.

The French leader discovers the direction the people are going in, and gets out front to take the lead. But the thing is, what if they want to change direction? They'll be behind him, with his back to them, will he even know they've altered their path, and abandoned him? How effective is that approach, really?

But what if you - like me - think you have something worthy to share? Something that is not what people are necessarily looking for, or at? Going in other people's direction is never going to work, because the direction is not united - or if united, a part of you is forfeited. People will only follow if they are going in that direction already, or so it might seem.

Does being an effective leader mean getting a sense of direction, and going in it with or without others following? Does it mean having a true sense of oneself and vision? Does it mean others observing you, and choosing to follow, or does it mean you engaging others as you proceed, perhaps even walking backward as you go, so you can remain engaged? Does being an effective leader mean being more focused on the inner voice than the voice of those around them?

Are the leaders the ones that stand alone, and to the side, because they aren't following anyone else? Are they the ones that "don't fit?" If someone wants to lead should they be more of the same, or should they be unique, and stand out in some way?

Maybe being a leader means showing people things they didn't even know they wanted. Maybe being a leader doesn't mean making the popular choices. Why do we need a leader if they are just going in the same direction we are, and felling us the things we think we want to hear? Can we not handle it ourselves?

I am speaking at the moment on a personal level, and not on a larger scale one. I imagine there could be quite the discussion on this topic - especially when it comes to the bigger picture. But it is much too late for my mind to even entertain that question. But I am thinking there may be something to this. I may have to come back and revisit it more when I have had a chance to consider it more, and am significantly more awake.

So I will leave you with these thoughts and questions for now. Maybe they will stir something within you. For me, it certainly might explain why I am often feeling like I am on the outside looking in, and why I am reluctant to look at things the way people keep telling me to. I feel like there is something more to the picture than my just being stubborn. Maybe I just found a way to justify myself, and maybe the degree to which I am "right" is in some correlation to what others may think I am doing "wrong."

I have no idea, and my head is spinning a bit. So, for now, I will just wish you a good night.
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1 comment:

  1. I have the tendency to follow. I am not the one who stands out but the one in the shadows waiting to see what the majority are going to do. Sometimes I am the one that goes off on my own tangent, happy to go my own path and do my own thing in spite of the group. Interesting concepts you addressed here. You really got my brain working for this early in the morning! Ha!