(Obligatory reminder to subscribe to my once-monthly newsletter here, which rounds up everything I wrote in the preceding month, grants access to a curated members-only Spotify playlist, and includes a piece of exclusive bonus collectible content I will NEVER repost anywhere else, ever!)
I HAVE NEVER DONE one of these daily-prompt boondoggles before (except this year’s Bloganuary event, which was a ton of exhausting fun), but there’s no time like the present, especially because at present the higher brainpower required to carve a more meaningful post out of my glistening thoughtmeats is devoted to building insane vehicles, becoming the Torquemada of Koroks, and plummeting almost continuously to my brutal death in Tears Of The Kingdom. Enjoy!
I love this question, because I’m a self-amused prick who enjoys being a precious little iconoclast, AND SO I MUST POINT OUT that this dichotomy, like almost all of them, is false as a pair of nasty, tricksy Hobbitses. Nobody’s supposed to say ‘Hello yes, I follow“, right? The question–depending on the asker–is designed to shame you into a poorly-defined ‘leading’, and I am here to tell you that this is a hogload of steaming rowrbazzle steeped in productivity-oriented, domination-based capitalist bushwa.
I am not a Leader or a Follower, I am a Facilitator. Let us consider: Who are Batman and Bruce Wayne without Alfred? Captain Holt without Gina Linetti? Who are Colonels Henry Blake and Sherman Potter without Radar O’Reilly and Max Klinger? DO I EVEN NEED TO MENTION RIZA HAWKEYE?
The Hyper-Competent Sidekick is a universal trope for a reason, though even my ego won’t allow me to to claim the ‘hyper’ for myself, nor do I think that the implied incompetence of the accompanying Alleged Boss is necessarily universal, but is sadly common. Allow me to quote the man himself–Lee, Chinese footman to Adam Trask:
“I don’t know where being a servant came into disrepute. It is the refuge of a philosopher, the food of the lazy, and, properly carried out, it is a position of power, even of love. I can’t understand why more intelligent people don’t take it as a career—learn to do it well and reap its benefits. A good servant has absolute security, not because of his master’s kindness, but because of habit and indolence. It’s a hard thing for a man to change spices or lay out his own socks. He’ll keep a bad servant rather than change. But a good servant, and I am an excellent one, can completely control his master, tell him what to think, how to act, whom to marry, when to divorce, reduce him to terror as a discipline, or distribute happiness to him, and finally be mentioned in his will.“Steinbeck, John. East of Eden (pp. 163-164). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
My goals aren’t quite that noble or that manipulative–I’d much rather be Radar or Gina than Alfred or Lee; at least then my boss wouldn’t follow me home–but I have always thrived in the position of being known as trusted, reliable, resourceful, and left the hell alone until I’m needed.
It could be simple, knee-jerk contrarianism; I do instinctively seek to remove myself from any hierarchy, not because I fear or disdain responsibility but because I’ve seen that rising in any chain leads inevitably to one of only two outcomes: either your competence is noticed and you end up doing your work and much of the work of others, or you succumb to the dark lure of ambition and authority, and finally become what you always hated, saying things like “I guess nobody wants to work anymore” in staff meetings and teaching us all by example what a class traitor looks like.
And that dichotomy could be false! There are certainly exceptions to it, like Hamdi Ulukaya, the founder of Chobani, who to all evidence is what capitalism would look like if it actually did all the things right-wingers claim it does, but he’s notable because he’s the glaring exception to the otherwise immutable rule regarding what power, success, and money do to people. As far as I can tell–and I’ve been trying since the Bush Jr. administration–the only way to win the game is not to play, but of course that strategy requires the resources to not need what the game offers to the Lucky Winner who could, after all, be you. Perhaps not coincidentally, I have my first new job-interview this coming week; your thoughts and prayers are requested for both parties.
I SUSPECT that you did not click on this article with the expectation of learning the fine art of manipulating your white boss, or the secret history of Turkey’s most powerful yogurt magnate, or that you can grind sick rails across the skies of Hyrule and if you’re anything like me you’ll want to do absolutely nothing else; if those things be true, then I suppose A LEADER I MUST BE, for I have led you to consider new possibilities, and also now you want yogurt. My work, I can say with satisfaction, is done.