According to a fine saying, ‘You either Lead or you get out of the way’. It is an excellent proposition as it compels us to eventually develop both sides of the coin (Leadership skills and the art of Collaboration), it enables the process of self-criticism and self-evaluation (otherwise you would not be able to choose whether you are more suited for a Leadership role or for booking a seat in the back-row) and it forces us to…make the Call! You either take-over the cockpit and assume the responsibility, or you step aside, put your sit-belt on and hope your captain knows what he/she is doing.
It may sound too much of a ‘black and white’ situation, but it is how it is. From monumental historical achievements to huge corporations, from the most significant political decisions and important social movements to the greatest works of Art, and from the highly competitive Sports-world to the most extreme scientific breakthroughs, the same is true and proven: If you want to Lead, you cannot complain about it. And if you are going to follow, you should not talk too much or choose to go around issuing orders. As a Leader, you cannot go around begging, and if you seriously plan on spending your life as a collaborator and partner, you should not make demands that only Leaders are entitled to.
It may come as a surprise then to learn that making the choice between being a Leader or a Follower, and sticking to it Successfully, is hardly the most difficult thing one can do. In fact, it is a blessing. The curse is one of the other two:
Misfortune No.1) You are a born follower in this game of life, and being conditioned by your personality traits to follow an authority, you happen to have the bad luck of being led by an incapable leader! In such a case, your well-being, future prospects, and your very life is in the hands of…. chance! If you make it, it will not be because of you, and it will even be Despite the actions of your Leader!
Misfortune No.2) Being an observer, the kind of objective bystander who despite being convinced that the existing Leader is incapable, accepts that fact as true and still does nothing! Silencing the voice of his/her consciousness by accepting the situation as unchangeable and as not-so-threatening to him/herself, the bystander chooses to remain neutral. As soon as the end result will prove fatal, tragic or simply unfortunate for the follower(s), the innocent bystander will be inconsolable.
Of course, there is a third pawn in this game: the tragic and heavy shadow of the persona in the Leading Role! Much like an Opera singer about to perform in a R. Wagner Opera after being hit by the flue, the grand illusion of being the greatest leading-role ever, cannot be easily reconciled with the fact that people down there, audience, crew, team-mates and associates, all try to convince the Prima Dona person to step down, for everyone’s sake! In a musical performance, the risk is still minimal. At least nobody will die! But in real life, such scenarios consisting of a mad dictator, a guilty bystander and innocent victim(s), have the same END. From small families to huge empires, and from tactic formations in the battlefield to the sinking of Titanic, this model is a one-way street: You simply go down and fast…
My contributions since 2010, regardless if they took place in the academic world, in concert halls with a grand-piano or in auditoriums with a microphone, in the media or on social media, through articles and interviews or via books and blogs, derive from this Realisation. No matter how inadequate as a Leader (and no Leader was ever perfect) or insubordinate as a Follower (and useful followers always had a voice), it is better to be one of those, than a supposedly innocent bystander. Not only nobody will die, but everyone will actually prosper.
The Failing Leader might resent your criticism or fear your resolution. Your decisiveness might by envied or admired by other bystanders and followers.
And it is irrelevant. Because you did the right thing and the cat lived.