Leaders as followers


One of the biggest milestones in my life was when I realized that I don’t always have to be the leader. I don’t have to take charge, dictate instructions to others, or jump at every opportunity to contribute to the conversation. But  letting go turned out to be one of the hardest things I have ever done. And for someone who has always been an older sister and the eldest cousin, that was a pretty big revelation.

When I was younger, I would always take charge of my younger cousins and decide for everyone what to do and what not to do. I led the games, the mini-productions, the prayer before meals, and the general kalokohan or pranks we would pull on our titos and titas. Even when I started going to school, it was the same. I was so lucky I ended up in a group of friends who never called me bossy, since they were ALL Type-A personalities, just like me. We flourished as the go-to people for solutions and ideas, and I took on the label of leader, not follower. Those were the good old days.

Then, a few years ago, I joined a writing workshop. The participants were divided into two groups, and we had to make a full 6-page issue for a newspaper to publish. We had to come up with articles, coordinate with artists and put it all together.

Of course, as the oldest in my group, I was elected Editor. We started brainstorming about article ideas, layout plans, and feature pieces that same day, and I assigned a part of the work to each member. We had a groupchat, we met a few times to work and coordinate our plans together, and we all had so much fun! However, when the day came for us to present our ideas to the actual editor, we realized how much work we still needed to do. We weren’t even close to submitting the finished product. That’s when we started getting stressed.

At that time, I had never experienced so much pressure, especially since everyone in our group was relying on me. I made the mistake of assigning all the heavy work to myself instead of dividing it evenly among my groupmates. I wanted to control everything that was going on so badly that everyone had already finished working while I was still hurriedly trying to put everything together before the deadline.

I guess I thought that I could do everything myself. And even if I was happy with the finished product, I wished that we, as a team, had been able to come up with something better, together. I realized that I should have trusted my groupmates more, instead of bossing them around. I should’ve encouraged them to take charge and choose what they wanted to do and submit, not just do what I wanted.

Much more recently, I was part of a big project in which a lot of thought and care had to be put into everything we did. There were around 12 of us on the team, all different ages, and backgrounds. That said, it was a bit of a challenge to come up with activities and solutions we could all agree on. I kept trying to suggest ideas and activities apply to the project, but multiple times, my ideas would be shot down or forgotten. Of course, I knew it wasn’t personal; we all wanted to give the best we could for the project. Still, l felt slightly off, since I was not a prime contributor.

All my life I had been so used to being the person people looked to for solutions, not just within my family. But now, while listening and paying attention to the ideas of others, which were oftentimes better than mine, I realized that it takes a lot of effort to be a follower. No, not just a follower, but a supporter.

That day, as a supporter, I was not the person who came up with the grand schemes and big ideas; instead, I supported the ideas I liked and voiced my concern over others.

It dawned on me that we shouldn’t limit people to boxes like, “I’m a leader, she’s a follower.” The expression, “Behind every strong man is a strong woman,” despite sounding sexist, proves that talented and powerful men and women also need talented and powerful allies by their sides, to cheer them on and motivate them to keep moving forward. Without voters and supporters, there are no elected officials. Without fans and admirers, celebrities are nothing.

Would we even have the motivation to go through our everyday lives without the people who believe in and care for us? Would it even be possible?

My new personal resolution is to become a better supporter. Instead of wanting my own thoughts and ideas to shine, I want to look for those who are better than I am, learn from them, and encourage them to keep doing what they’re doing. I want to push those whom I believe have real talent and skill, and cheer on others instead of competing with them. I want to surround myself with people whom I admire so that I can be motivated to work hard and be just like them.

By being a better supporter, I might eventually call myself a leader, too, for a real leader learns from others, and is not afraid to let others lead them, too.

 

 

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