I was raised to understand that I was a brilliant child.
The potential that adults saw in my intelligence led them to offer me many opportunities.
Also I was obnoxious and annoying and intolerant of anything I thought was stupid, poorly thought-out, or wrong (read: a lot of what my teachers wanted me to do).
So the opportunities I was offered were opportunities to lead.
I attended many leadership conferences and workshops and I was continually inspired by them.
But I didn't really see myself as a leader. I didn't seek leadership roles, and often chose to observe from the sidelines rather than even participate.
It wasn't until I learned partner dance that I understood where I fit in--I have always been a follower.
Dance was the first place where I was shown clearly the power and agency of a follower.
Ours is a culture that is woefully ignorant of exalted following.
Exalted following is an exercise of intelligence and agency. Following is influential and meaningful. Following is powerful. Following is independent. Following is creative. Following is art.
I never learned this as a kid, I just thought I wasn't living up to my leadership potential.
I didn’t realize that my obstinance was actually a commitment to my role as a follower, one blazingly-important aspect of which is *requiring* excellence from leaders and NOT following poor leadership.
Ours is a culture that sees power and thinks leadership, with a wounded and incomplete understanding of both power and leadership. Our vision of power is power-over. Our vision of leading is actually oppression, domination, subjugation.
When I say that I am a woman who wants to follow my male partner's leadership, this automatically creates a vision of a power imbalance in the other person's mind. I know because it even does so in corners of MY mind.
But following is not available in oppressive systems; oppression prevents following by requiring obedience. Following is by-definition voluntary. It is an act of decolonization to understand the power of following, to practice and study influential following, and to strengthen holistic and generative understandings and models of power.
Leading and following are cocreative roles which are each powerful and limited in their own complementary ways, and are only possible among free and agentic beings *in relationship.*
There's a ton of information available about leading and being a better leader, but very little information about following and being a better follower.
I aim to change that.