It's Okay to Be a Follower

By: Eliyahu Solomon  |  May 10, 2023

By Eliyahu Solomon, Staff Writer

One aspect of college that I feel gets a lot of attention thrown at it is the area of leadership. The message of leadership is imparted to us through different opportunities such as the ability to run clubs and societies, participate in sports teams, or hear them given in different courses or speeches that emphasize the role of leadership throughout our daily lives. 

I am certainly not standing here and criticizing this. It is quite important that students are given the opportunity to take charge in areas in which they thrive or learn about different aspects of leadership which they can take with them post-graduation. Yet is this always the case? Is there a thing as too much leadership?

One thing I have noticed during my time in college – as opposed to high school – is that I have been far more careful about how I utilize my time. In high school, my main goal was to run as many clubs as I could, be active in student government, volunteer in my free time, and then use the rest for athletics and classwork. I wanted to be a leader in all aspects of my high school career and would feel insulted when I was passed over for different opportunities and refused to work alongside others in that case. 

Over my time at Yeshiva University, however, I began to have more of a shift in attitude toward positions of leadership and responsibility. Maybe it was time to let others take the rein and I would follow in their lead. This mindset change, I believe, was paramount to my success these past three years. Instead of filling my day with countless club events and meetings, I worked part-time to earn some money in order to pay tuition, pay for my apartment, as well as make some money for discretionary use. I chose not to take an active role in student government for my first few years and instead enjoyed doing things I found pleasure in, even if it meant not having the best resume activities. 

This does not mean that my way was the correct way, or that other people cannot set their schedule to do both of these things. All I am pointing out is that I made a choice to not focus my entire day on active roles, allowing other people to take over. One more example of this is when I was not chosen as captain of the YU Baseball team. At first, I was upset. I was a senior and had committed a lot of time to the team, yet it was given to a freshman, much to the dismay of many of my teammates. As time in the season progressed I began to feel thankful that I was not the captain, as I did not have the time, the patience, or the ability to lead the team. Instead, I took a valuable role as a supporting team player, someone who was not the lead but rather just another player looking to improve his skills.

When the time was right I did take chances in areas of leadership. I served as the Amendments Committee Chair – a venture which taught me the values of failure – as well as playing a number of roles working in athletics and my own side job where I was responsible for important decisions and duties. My time spent as a follower, shadowing other leaders and decision-makers helped me thrive in these roles. 

There will be a time in the future when I or many others will have a choice to become a leader or choose follow someone else’s lead. What to do in that situation will be entirely dependent on the scenario and the players involved, but what I hope to explain is that there is nothing wrong with being a follower at certain times. We are limited in what we can do and accomplish, and sometimes it is the right thing to do to give over decision-making to someone else, even if it comes at the cost of your own personal glory.