Just Out for a Walk?

Someone recently said to me, “You know, if you’re trying to lead someone somewhere, and you turn around and no one is following you, you’re just out for a walk.”

Ha, ha, ha I say–as I roll my eyes.

Part of the eye-rolling is from considering the source.  He’s a pragmatic man.  He needs to see results.  And if you turn around and no one’s following you, there are no immediate results.  End of story.  At least for him.

He’s also told me he has no artistic bone in his body.  I can’t help but feel sorry for the guy.


Do you think Martin Luther King, Jr. cared if anyone was following him or not?  Early on, I’m not sure anyone was.

jackie robinson

What if Jackie Robinson had said no to the big leagues because there were no players from the negro leagues willing to follow him?


Or, forget Martin Luther King, Jr.  What about Martin Luther himself?  Remember that reformer?  After standing up to the intimidating structure that was the medieval Catholic Church, standing trial for his life in fact, do you remember what he said?  “Here I stand.”  Not, “Here I stand with my buddies who’ve decided to follow me”; or, “I stand by what I said because I’ve got reasonably good authority backing me up”; or any other such schmaltz.  But here I, by myself, alone, without anyone following me, without pragmatism–here I stand.

Or what about this guy?


No, real leadership is not pragmatic.

Real leadership does not need to be backed up by his friends, or the majority, or the crowd, or the mob.

Real leadership, instead, is principled.  It is adventurous, pioneering into new territory whether or not anyone else has the spine to accompany, because it is the right thing to do.  Not because the peanut gallery is egging me on!

No, it seems to me that the need to be followed by others is what’s not real leadership.  What it is is something else–maybe something good, akin to motherhood; or perhaps something bad, even really bad, like the duplicity of a political charlatan.  But don’t tell me it’s leadership!


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