Tuesday, October 26, 2010

If Everyone is a Leader Then Where are all the Followers?

Today in my Commerce 1800 class Making Business Work we had a guest lecturer talk about leadership. As I was listening to the lecture it made me start thinking about how many times the importance of leadership has been thrown at us as students.

In high school while filling out college applications, they emphasized: student leadership, student leadership, student leadership. They made you feel as if you would not be accepted into college unless you were a student leader.

So now all of these ambitious student leaders are all together in one place at UVA, making an even more competitive enivronment as students continue with their belief that we all have to be student leaders.

But the question that I feel needs to be asked is: If everyone is a leader then where are all the followers?

In reality, not everyone can be a leader. I worry that we are creating a generation of people who will all expect that they will assume leadership positions in the real world, which simply isn't the case.

Furthermore, with the obsession of creating leaders, American society is creating a culture where people derive their value out of their power and postion in leadership roles. People who are not leaders or are simply happy to be a follower are left feeling that they are not contributing as much or as valuable compard to the leaders in their community.

What happened to the value of a strong and invested member in their community, organization, or firm? With all leaders, not only are there not any followers, but there are also not any strong members as the backbone of the organization that helps it function.

I worry that our generation is going to enter the workforce running and gunning for every promotion and top position - because it was what we were told to. But this only leads to disappointment and the disregard for the value of sincere and caring members.

And that's my two cents.


  1. kept nodding my head as I read on :)

  2. This is an incredible profound point Alicia. I'm interested in your thoughts on this in regards to HOBY. Do you think that young people need that encouragement to learn leadership skills - even if they maybe don't want to be a leader?

    Your entitlement argument is strong though ... I wonder if there's a way to test that the change in generational behavior coincides with greater expectations of leadership?

  3. Thank you Heather! I actually started to think about HOBY as I was writing this! I think HOBY already does a good job by empowering its ambassadors to make a difference on any level possible that they can. I think HOBY also emphasizes that you can be a leader without the title, that a leader is somone of influence. But the point is definitely worth mentioning again at HOBY! In regards to testing generational behavior, I'm sure someone could do a study on young career men and women and investigate that out by interviewing different young people in different jobs.