Leading and Following: A Call for Humanity

                                                   By Sunny Oputa


Every human being is created to lead. Therefore, leadership is the birthright of every human irrespective of the person’s state or place of birth. While education may not justify leadership strength, it can enhance or make people to realize faster their natural call to lead.


It has always been a battle within the social, corporate and political corridors to decipher whether leaders are born or made. There will never be a one straight answer to this philosophy of discerning how people turn out to become leaders. However, it is appalling to note that people are only accorded the celebration of leadership when they succeed in their vocation, for instance in the military like Winston Churchill, politically like Bill Clinton , in the corporate sectors like Steve Jobs, and Jack Welch.


The question could be: if all human were born to be leaders, then who will be followers? The unequivocal answer is that man is created in his nature to lead and follow at the same time. When we consider a person a good leader invariably that same person is expected to have an above average attribute to be a good follower. Every good leader must also be a good follower. To lead you must be able to follow and to follow you should be prepared to lead.


John Maxwell, the author of 360 – Degree Leadership, stated that leadership could be from the middle or top. Leadership focus should not only be from the top or exceptional height. A cleaner can lead in his sphere, likewise a middle manager or topnotch chief executive officer. The ability to influence, lead change, innovate, create plans and collaborate with other in executing strategies  beneficial for a group, community or organizational goal is what matters in leadership.


Whether a person that takes or is assigned the responsibility to lead succeeds or falters in the process that person has led and should be accepted as a leader. The variation comes when quantifying the degree of success or how the person was able to handle failure just like Abraham Lincoln did. The first role of a leader or follower is to uphold the essence of humanity and work towards making situations better than he found it.  In every leadership process there must be curves of victory and slopes of failure. A leader can only be written off if such a person became inhuman, and blind to the truth of matters. Dr Cornel West said “you can’t lead the people if you don’t love the people. You can’t save the people if you don’t serve the people.”


Sometimes people are scared of accepting their natural role as creatures made to lead because of the risk of leadership. The fear of failure is what makes many not to step out and assume leadership positions . Consequently, majority of people who are afraid to leade never make good followers but shallow-critics. It is not really more of the financial loss that accrues when a leadership boat capsizes that hinders people from taking a front leadership role but the social stigma of shame and mockery. Those who have been able to overcome the fear and took the high risk of leading has always turned out to benefit immensely. Whether you operate as a leader or follower there is always a high degree of risk.  the decison to be a leader or follower is a choice that every human must determine at any given time. A follower who failed to have a 360 –degree turn at some time in the person’s life may remain a subordinate forever, enslaved in his world, unfulfilled, die with his dreams unrealized and forever remain indebted to humanity for failing to accomplish a natural cycle of leading at a point while on earth.


There is nothing that deters a person from leading or been a successful follower but the person. For some people there time to step out from the mold of followership and be in the front path of leadership may come naturally, and for others it could be an energy out of a complex situation that would generate the jumping frequency for them to emerge as leaders. Cassius a noble man captured it very well in his motivational talk with Brutus in the book entitled Julius Caesar when he said, “the fault , dear Brutus, is not  in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings.”

It is important to state that whether leading or following there must be a practical demonstration of love for humanity, orderliness, respect and the will power to accomplish goals, accept failures and overcome obstacles. Inhumanity is bestial, and the role of a leader or follower is not to make people mourn.


It was a great experience for me this past month of August during my investiture ceremony as a Knight of Saint Christopher amongst others at El Paso, Texas by Rt. Rev. Felix Orji to realize that knighthood was not just an honor to lead but a call to serve and follow. A realization that made me to comprehend that a good knight should be a helper of the poor, a defender of the truth, a light in the community, respecter of women, a lover of humanity, a leader and a follower. Mark, one of the gospel writers of the holy writ reported “if anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.” Leadership and followership are natural cycles which every human should aspire to accomplish in life.


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