Since the dawn of humanity, there have been three types of people – leaders, followers and rebels. Which one are you?
Leaders are driven by a need to acquire and utilise power. They want to control. Whether this drive is born of ego or nature is, sometimes, unclear. Either way, they excel at motivating others (either through fear or encouragement), fighting threats and maintaining cohesion.
Leaders occupy the highest positions within our societies. Sometimes respected, sometimes feared, they are almost always obeyed. They are confident, sure of themselves, and certain that the society, or organisation, in which they operate is right.
They typically, although not always, occupy the top positions in small, medium and large companies and corporations, the military, politics, education, justice, finance and almost any major industry of which you can think. They make ideal managers, CEO’s, presidents, heads of department, generals, entertainers, senior coaches, captains of sports teams and partners of law, accountancy and other professional firms (although you’d be wrong to assume everyone occupying these positions is automatically a leader).
The leaders’ role is to enforce and protect the status quo. They benefit financially, intrinsically and socially from the continuation of the present system. Therefore, they’ll do anything they can to maintain the existing power structures within the society they live or the organisation they work.
Are leaders’ good people? They can be. A minority use their inclination to lead for the protection of the vulnerable and to ensure the organisations, or family units, they govern are done so according to the principles of justice, fairness and integrity. They want to see a company, or other people, thrive and feel it’s their life purpose to facilitate the betterment of all. However, the majority of leaders are driven by ego and this has the unfortunate consequence of ensuring they’ll do anything to maintain their position of power.
These leaders may not set out to harm other people, companies or the planet, but if it’s a choice between losing power or ensuring the right thing is done, then the unscrupulous leader will always protect their position. Even if it means another person’s life is ruined, a company is forced out of business or the planet’s resources are ravaged, the unscrupulous leader won’t hesitate to make such a call.
Good leaders, although still being driven by a need for power, would never go this far. Instead, they’ll ensure the right thing is done even if it contradicts their short-term personal interests. They do this knowing they can always rise again and acquire power through some other job or position.
Leaders are predominantly extroverts. They’re happy to be the loudest voice in a social setting and are equally at ease presenting in front of a group of people or instructing their subordinates on a battle plan or company strategy. They like to entertain, impress and be the centre of attention.
Throughout history, the leader has been fundamental to maintaining stability (which, in turn, facilitates growth and prosperity) and ensuring the rules are obeyed. However, the leader has also been responsible for countless power struggles (leading to war and destruction) and resisting new ideas and change (stunting humanities growth).
Followers are driven by the need for security. Although capable of enjoying themselves, deep down, they feel threatened by life. They fear running out of money, getting ill, losing their job and being ostracised by society, friends, partners and in their place of work.
Followers adopt a ‘safety first’ approach to life, avoiding significant risks unless they are forced to take them. The follower doesn’t set their sights on winning or creating a legacy. Instead, they focus on ‘getting by.’
Followers occupy almost all positions in society. They are, by far, the largest personality group and this means you’ll find them everywhere. You’ll see them in hospitals, working as nurses and doctors and you’ll find them at schools, working as teachers and departmental heads. Major companies and corporations are flooded with followers. They begrudgingly accept excessive working hours, being screwed over when it comes to promotion and the unethical decisions of the leaders they work for, in return for a monthly pay check. The police, the civil service and armed forces are also packed with this personality type. You’ll also find many followers in low skilled roles (factory workers, fast food chain servers, retail assistants and cleaners).
Surprisingly, followers’ sometimes occupy leadership roles. Supervisors and managers are, quite often, followers who have been granted a limited amount of power. They may appear to be leaders, when compared with those below them in the company hierarchy, but they do very little real leading. Instead, they simply carry out the orders of the leaders above.
The follower’s role is to administer the status quo. They’re the glue that binds the system together. Although they don’t maintain order, they facilitate it by being hard working, dependable and, most importantly, limiting the questions they ask.
Are followers’ good people? Some of them are amongst the most kind hearted and nicest people you’ll meet. They don’t ask for much yet are always willing to help. While lacking personal ambition, they’ll do anything for a friend, loved one or relative. However, other followers live their lives wearing a mask.
Underneath some followers apparent selflessness are scared people stymied by societal expectation. Their motivation for helping is not always love. Sometimes, it’s because they believe helping is expected of them and fear being ostracised if they don’t. Amongst their worst traits are a secret desire to see other people fail, an overly negative outlook and blaming others for their own misfortune.
Followers can be either introverts or extroverts. They’re easily led by the company they keep and will do almost anything to ensure they fit in. If they’re in a loud and boisterous group, they’ll make sure their voice is heard. However, if they’re in a quieter environment, these extroverted tendencies will soon disappear as they keep their heads down and do their best not to be noticed.
Throughout history, the follower has been fundamental to the sustenance of the human race, displaying both a tendency to care for others and an ability to keep kingdoms, countries and organisations running relatively smoothly. However, they’ve also been culpable in humanities grossest atrocities, blindly watching or taking part (using the excuse they’re only doing their job) while countless others suffer.
Martin Luther King Jr once said, “In the end we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.” A follower’s concern for their own security can be deadly for others.
Rebels are driven by the need for freedom. They want to live life on their own terms. Unlike leaders, they have no desire for power over others. However, unlike followers, they absolutely will not tolerate another person having power over them (especially if this power is abused).
Money, in of itself, is not important to a rebel. They find little happiness in consumption. However, because they value their freedom so highly, money can become important as a means to an end – granting them the ability to live a self-determined life.
Rebels occupy some of societies most extreme positions. You might find them at the very top as their creativity, and ability to think outside the box, leads them to become billionaire entrepreneurs and pioneers within their industry. Many outstanding writers, musicians and artists are also rebels.
Some rebels campaign on a political issue or enter a life of public service. Their desire to affect change sees them eschew personal gain and give their lives to a cause greater than themselves.
Other rebels shun the limelight and are content with living life on their own terms. These are the owners of small businesses, solopreneurs and the people with two or three side hustles.
Not all rebels are successful. Unfortunately, many experience a life of unrealised potential as they struggle to find their place in the world.
Without any obvious outlets for their creativity and unique perspective, some rebels try to “fit in” with society’s roles and norms. This can lead to them holding down regular jobs and marriages. On the surface, they appear to live “normal,” well-adjusted lives. However, underneath, they can’t shake the feeling they’ve compromised their dreams and authenticity.
Some rebels can’t fake it. They struggle to maintain a job and swing between bouts of unemployment and sporadic work. These intelligent, creative and talented people fall by the wayside because the system doesn’t accommodate anyone who challenges the status quo.
This is the life of the rebel. A few soar and explore limitless horizons but many struggle, finding it impossible to adapt to a world that appears to have no place for their personality and ideas.
The Rebel’s role is to set the agenda for the leaders and followers. Such a statement may seem odd considering the previous paragraphs. However, despite the struggle so many rebels experience, many of them were born for an exceptional life.
A rebel must sense when humanity is stagnating and drag it out of its lethargy by presenting new ideas, innovations and ways of living. Their inquisitive natures, and ingenuity, have been behind almost every major paradigm shift we’ve experienced. They helped us shake off the limiting world view of superstition and embrace science. They understood the damage caused by religion controlling all aspects of society and separated the church from the state. They fought injustices, standing up to the leaders who sought to continue the barbaric practises of torture, slavery and gender repression. Rebels create change and, by doing so, establish a new agenda for the leaders to rule over and the followers to operate within.
Are rebels’ good people? Of all the categories, they are certainly the most misunderstood. Often the rebel is criticised by the leader and the follower for being selfish, aloof and a dreamer. However, this assessment only scratches the surface of the rebel’s complex psyche.
Rebels can have an unbreakable moral code. None of societies temptations can stop them from doing what they feel is right. They’ll always support their friends and loved ones and never let them down. They long for meaningful connections and will sacrifice their own desires if they feel a cause, or person, is worth that sacrifice. However, despite these positive characteristics, the rebel can also be troubled, the consequences of which can be disastrous for others (and themselves).
It’s easy for a rebel to become jaded. Living your life feeling like an alien, and that there’s no place for you in the world, can embitter even the kindest of souls. The rebels mind can be full of recriminations and accusations, pointing the finger at a society that has never embraced them and blaming it for their misfortunes.
Rebels lean towards being introverts but their introversion is unique. A rebel is rarely quiet or timid by nature. In fact, when involved in something they’re passionate about, they come alive with an energy that even the most extroverted leader can’t match. However, disconnect them from this passion and the rebel can appear distant, brooding and lost in their own world.
Rebels are deep thinkers, a trait which has both its rewards and consequences. On the plus side, the rebel’s ability to consider possibilities, products, inventions and creative works in their mind, can be the precursor to real world changes and breakthroughs. At the same time, rebels display a tendency to get lost in their thoughts. Over analysis can stymie their attempts to take action and, if persisted in, lead to depression.
Not all rebels are introverts. Some can be impulsive, spontaneous and thrive off the attention of others. This type of rebel can be incredibly charismatic and disruptive. Their keen sense of intuition, combined with the confidence to follow it, can lead to rapid success and even fame. However, if their energy is not channelled correctly, the extroverted rebel can easily slip into a chaotic form of disruption that leaves leaders, followers and less extroverted rebels picking up the pieces in their wake.
Throughout history, Rebels have been the ones to recognise societal stagnation, saving humanity from a potential downfall by presenting exciting alternatives to the status quo. However, rebels consumed by the darkness of isolation and rejection have always represented a destructive force for humanity (in most cases, only to themselves but, in the extreme and if they attain positions of power, to all they have influence over).
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The purpose of these categorisations is not to pit one group against the other. Despite this book being focused on the rebel; the leader and follower should not be hated or belittled. A world full of rebels would be a disaster and could potentially lead to chaos.
This is a concept Jordan Peterson discusses in his book, Beyond Order: 12 More Rules for Life. Although he uses different terminology (the leader is replaced by conservatism and the rebel by creativity), he talks about balancing respect for tradition with the need to embrace change.
He calls this rule, ‘Do not carelessly denigrate social institutions or creative achievement,’ mentioning that,
A certain amount of arbitrary rule-ness must be tolerated – or welcomed, depending on your point of view – to keep the world and its inhabitants together. A certain amount of creativity and rebellion must be tolerated – or welcomed, depending on your point of view – to maintain the process of regeneration.
I disagree with Jordan Peterson on the amount (leaning more towards the need for greater rebellion – especially with the world in its current state), but he makes an excellent point. It takes every type of person to make the world work.
Be proud to be a leader. Accept, and enjoy, being follower. Embrace your rebellious nature. The world will be a better place if we live up to the best elements of our personality traits and develop a positive understanding of the roles we naturally lean towards.
What you’ve just read is an extract from my unreleased book, ‘The Rebel Code: 13 Steps to Succeed in a World where you don’t Fit In.’ If you enjoyed what you read and want a massive discount on the full book when it’s released, enter your email in the box below. This will add you to the Escape The System newsletter, where I’ll communicate with you monthly and email you about the release of the book (with an early bird discount).
(Image used courtesy of Eden, Janine and Jim photostream flickr.com)