In Service of Leadership
Not Leadership Material? Good. The World Needs Followers by Susan Cain
New York Times, March 24, 2017
Are followers needed? Susan Cain, the author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, thinks they are. Moreover, she feels that higher education and its admissions practices are glorifying leadership at an unacceptable cost to institutions and individuals. Cain sees many invaluable ways to contribute that do not fall into the crisp confines of leadership. In this New York Times article, Cain makes three strong points about an outsize valuing of leadership experiences as the peak attainment for our students. First, building a resumé that spills over with leadership is a constricting and unnecessarily narrow gate for students and of judging potential and excellence. Second, team players, and those who are comfortable creatively setting out on their own path, are vital to society and to schools. Third, Cain sees an unhealthy reliance on leadership skills as a disservice to leadership itself – risking attracting those who seek the spotlight rather than those who are motivated by the ideas and people they serve. Cain closes with a call to be clear with our students about what true leadership is and is not. She suggests we start by telling them that it actually has little do with who will attain status and power, but everything to do with service. Additionally, we must assure our students, and the colleges they apply to, that kind, thoughtful, talented people who are committed to excellence and passionate to contribute are needed, recognized and valued in our schools, whether they lead or whether they follow.