Quote of the week

As a by-product of digging into Atlas Shrugged, Sarah describes a person she says is herself, but really sounds a lot like me:

Clearly, we can’t all be leaders. We can’t all be the person who’s up in front, getting the attention and calling the shots. Some of us are followers. Some of us are actually happier working behind the scenes, doing the things that need to be done. Sure, there’s no glory in that, but it’s still important. The “up front” people need the “behind the scenes” people, as much as the “behind the scenes” people need the “up front” people. There must be followers as much as there must be leaders. It’s a symbiotic relationship, and everyone has their role.

So my question then becomes: is it possible to change your role?

I definitely fall in the “behind the scenes” camp. My entire life, I’ve been the epitome of a follower. I have mediocre ability, a whole lot of laziness and not a drop of assertiveness. My ambition is as short-lived as most of my interests. I’m aimless. A dilettante. And when I’m honest with myself, I recognize that I don’t really like having responsibility, and I generally prefer doing the “busy work” than being the Big Idea Person. It feels natural.

Compare this to one of my Big Ideas, borrowed from General George C. Marshall: “There is no limit to the good you can do if you don’t care who gets the credit.”

I turned down a promotion once. It wasn’t much more money, but the scary aspect of it was that it meant I’d have to go to staph staff meetings, and you really can’t pay me enough to sit through Management Fantasy Time. (If you’d like to try, the meter starts at $75,000 per annum.)


  1. McGehee »

    1 August 2008 · 8:45 pm

    “Up front” people also serve as a kind of shield when things go wrong. They may try to duck the blame even when it’s rightly theirs, but by the time the blameslingers figure out who does really deserve it, most of the ammo has been poured into the twitching corpse of the “up front” guy’s reputation.

  2. Morgan K Freeberg »

    1 August 2008 · 10:31 pm

    If you put pressure on the grunts on the front lines, make them personally responsible for getting the job done, they will do a fantastic job of picking out the agent within their midst most capable of this leadership. Once the prospect of failure becomes a personal thing, as in — the whole thing’s screwed up, nobody can go home, everyone’s cell phone is starting to ring because the wife is picking the same argument with each one of ’em about why they aren’t home yet — they’ll show an amazingly keen sense of judgment about who’s likely to make a success out of things, and who might botch it.

    If there is only light pressure on this team, or no pressure at all, then senior management will have to figure out who the leader is. And that’ll be whoever smiles and talks the most. Not a person known for getting much work done. Basically, it becomes high school all over again.

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