Following yourself: Self-leadership and self-followership

I’m fascinated by the idea of self-leadership, connected to ideas like personal sovereignty, the idea that we can be our own kingdom, where each person is like a country of our own.
And I believe this metaphor can be very useful.
In a sense we have personal government.
We make policy for ourselves.
We negotiate treaties and arrangements with other sovereign people.
I like this sense that- use that word of agency, the idea that we can make a difference, that we have the power to make decisions that matter.
So this idea of personal government, leadership, all fits in with that.
I guess when we imagine that we have our own country, that we are a personal sovereignty, that we sort of imagine that we are the leader.
And naturally, who else should be the leader of our own country? do we hand it off to somebody else? We have the ability to make decisions for ourselves.
We are like the head of state, the head of government, of our own nation.
So there’s a whole world to explore in applying those metaphors of larger organisations to the conduct of a simple- of one person.
Maybe simple’s not the word; the complexity seems to never end.
But of one person.
There’s the political metaphor, and also a business metaphor, being the CEOs of our corporation, etc.
General of the army, high priest of our own religion, captain of the sports team, coach of our own team.
I mean, these metaphors I believe are all very useful.
But we tend to focus on the leadership side, the idea of the head.
There’s a lot of focus on the head.
The head of state, the decision-maker, the highest-status, highest-power element of the organization.
And this is understandable, because the making of those decisions is really the prime concern.
Generally it’s the most interesting part of it.
But there’s another side to it which is often neglected: the idea of being a follower to ourselves.
And yet that’s the flip side of we are leaders.
Our leadership means nothing without a follower.
We lead ourselves.
So we get all those powerful feelings of being a leader, but there’s also the feeling of being a follower.
That’s maybe the humble side of this arrangement.
We can lead ourselves, but it means nothing unless we also follow ourselves.
We are the head of state of our own country, but we’re also the citizens.
We’re lesser ministers.
We’re ordinary citizens who are carrying out the directives of the head of state, the ruling council.
We can be CEO of our own lives, but we’re also the grunts on the floor doing the labour.
We’re the general of our own army, but we’re also the conscripts.
We’re the regulars and the irregulars, the foot soldiers.
And with all the focus on leadership, which is a whole world to itself, the notion of followership rarely gets much attention.
But really, if you think of this, if you really think of it as being the inverse, it is the inverse of leadership.
It is the other side of the same thing.
It is what gives leadership meaning.
So my thought for today is that it can be useful to think of that side, that side of the partnership, the agreement, the team between the leader and the follower.
And that just as we are training to be great leaders of ourselves, we are also training to be great followers of ourselves.
Those aspects, doing grunt work.
Once the leadership part of us, we know, we’ve decided that this is work that must be done, that we have to do, then there’s the part of us that has to carry out, that chooses to carry out this mundane, routine, thankless, dirty, unpleasant, boring, painful, uncomfortable work.
And just as we choose, we strive to lead ourselves with excellence, to make great decisions of leadership, may we also strive to be excellent followers of ourselves, to do these tasks with excellence and with grace, to carry out the project that we are undertaking.

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