Leaders Are Followers

This is an essay I wrote for my leadership class in the Corps of Cadets at Virginia Tech. I found it while organizing files on my external hard drive. With this glimpse into the past, you’ll get to see how far my writing ability has come since 2009.

30 inches per step, at 120 beats per minute? That’s far.


Cadet Everett, J.W. TC 3-1

MGT 2944

25 Mar 2009

Leadership Essay

          In any organization it is important for leaders to listen to their followers and for followers to respect their leaders. But another important thing that is not stressed nearly enough is the idea that every part of a team must work together in harmony. For this to happen horizontal communication and mutual respect is crucial. It’s not enough that everyone does their job; for a unit to succeed each member must appreciate the talents of others where they would otherwise be unnoticed. When every person in a team is appreciated he will help his fellow man and when the action is reciprocated he will have a lighter burden on himself. In this paper I will discuss why this is important.

One of Æsop’s fables tells the story of a body whose organs all say to each other that the stomach doesn’t do anything most of the day while other organs, such as the heart, work non-stop. The organs decide to stop delivering the stomach blood and oxygen. When the stomach loses its necessities and shuts down, the entire body runs out of nutrients. The other organs then realize that they need the stomach since it is their source of energy. In a unit it is important to realize that although certain positions may seem unremarkable, they should be regarded as equal to any other position. I have seen examples in the Corps of Company CO’s and the Regimental CO publicly showing appreciation for their members (such as company clerk) who work behind the scenes and whose hard work usually goes unnoticed.

However, the crux cannot be exclusively on the leaders to do this. Commanders should get to know their people, but they must also encourage their people to know each other. If a leader does something as simple as setting up a Boxing Day scenario (wherein everyone switches jobs for one day) I believe it would not only show members of a unit what their co-workers are doing, but it would also encourage them to take the extra step in getting to know their peers better and help each other out.

Ultimately, when each member of a team realizes that he is no more or less important than his counterpart, it dissolves the preconceived notions about position and assumptions about leadership ability based upon appearance. When the first step is taken to understand the stomach, then it won’t be long before the entire body operates in harmony.


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