Leaders, followers have differing sets of rules

In the spring of 1970, I was selected to be the Boys State representative for Beallsville High School. Boys State is a mock government program put on by the American Legion. It was the most significant honor I had received other than my trophies for showing cattle at the Monroe County Fair. My older brother, Joe, had the same honor a couple of years earlier. And my younger brother, Jack, received the honor three years later. The award was based upon a combination of scholastic and athletic contributions.

As the time drew near for me to head to Ohio University where Boys State was held, my excitement grew. Mom drove me down to Athens along with the Boys State representative from Skyvue High School, Mike Ashley.

Mom dropped us off and I felt a freedom like never before. Mike and I found our way to the registration table and were assigned to different dorms. It had only been a month since the 1970 May 4th Kent State riots and subsequent riots at most state schools in Ohio. Therefore, we were discouraged from visiting the College Green where most of the trouble occurred.

At my dorm room, I met and got to know a group of boys from across the state. The consensus was that the one place we wanted to go was the College Green. We located it on the map and headed in its direction. There were no National Guard members around but the scene looked like a war zone. Bricks had been pried from the streets and thrown at the student center breaking all its windows. Pieces of paper and other trash still littered the trampled grass, sidewalks and roadways.

We didn’t stay there long but the picture was burnt into my mind. An event I had only known through television was given a more vivid face. By the time we finished at the College Green, we had already missed the beginning of the orientation session and decided to play football instead.

These boys were all physically a lot bigger than I was. It was a rough game without pads and I got a knot on my head the size of a golf ball. I was dizzy and sick at my stomach for the next few hours.

We were admonished for missing the orientation but the rest of the week was fun. I ran for and was elected to the House of Representatives and submitted a bill, which was passed. I attended a number of classes and simulations and learned a lot about government.

I got caught up in my new-found freedom and followed the adventurous crowd. It was fun at the time but my injury almost sent me home. I learned a lot from the experience and met some boy with whom I corresponded for years.

I was chosen to represent Beallsville High School because of my leadership in the classroom and on the football field. However, when I arrived I found myself following instead.

Leadership and followership are both critical in every organization.

Good leaders pick the right things to do and good followers ask questions for understanding and suggest modifications for improvement.

In the end, the best followers choose to commit to organizational objectives or find a new group to join.

R. Glenn Ray, Ph.D., is the president of RayCom Learning. To learn more about Ray’s completely revised, third printing of The Facilitative Leader: Behaviors that Enable Success, visit his Web site, www.raycomlearning.com or call him at 740-629-4536. Everyday Leadership appears each Wednesday on the Business page.