Having an independent spirit, thumbing your nose to convention, and erecting the middle finger to all those you disagree with or feel offended by has a time and place. And let’s be honest, if you’re a fan of rugged individualism, it’s most of the time and in most places. It’s entrepreneurial, pioneering, and the boldness Americans are known for and occasionally admired. It’s also a piece of our vast mythology. The facade of “I did it my way.” But you didn’t. You might be brash and forceful and lulled into thinking everything you’ve achieved in life is because of your doing and “God’s will,” if you are of that persuasion. As compelling as that is, it’s also, let’s say, good marketing. Lots of people helped you. Many people you never thanked or acknowledged, let alone noticed. It makes sense; thinking of others is not where your focus has been.
Leaders, the good ones anyway, don’t make themselves the focus. They train their reticular activating system to find ways to aid those they lead to achieve the vision and goals. They don’t think less of themselves; they think of themselves less often. Could you imagine doing that?
Some people have ridden the pendulum to the other side, where they are entirely selfless and find themselves drained, trampled by those they allow to take advantage of them. Think of the stereotypical mother who puts everyone else before herself and ends up crying herself to sleep, making excuses for those who have been ungrateful.
Collectivism is putting the needs of the greater society (or team) before your own. The cynics worry about fairness and getting a raw deal, which, let’s be honest, when compared to others, translates as greed. One would think in times of national emergencies, like rampant opioid deaths, alarmingly regular school shootings, anti-democratic monopolistic corporations, and the scourge an assortment of blatantly unfit politicians bring would summon moderately helpful energy from fellow citizens. Sadly, even a global pandemic claiming 700,000+ of our neighbors registers as blasé. This confused contingent wants to “keep on keeping on” and continue to bellow and moan in their default NIMBY positions against anything that may help others besides themselves.
Candidly, it’s not in us to embrace collectivism wholeheartedly. It’s not a realistic or achievable goal, while patriarchy, white supremacy, and the surrender of common sense to fringe evangelical movements allow us to absolve any sense of responsibility easily. It’s simpler to blame those disadvantaged by the policies, systems, and little c culture of the pseudo-dominant bootstrap lifting posers. Hence the embrace of othering, whataboutism, and celebration of myth.
Positive change will not come from them. Change comes from you once you demand a balance between liberty and responsibility, individualism and collectivism, and possess the wisdom to discern when to turn which dial up or down. Good leaders do this regularly. Lousy leaders refuse to acknowledge the need. Start acting like a good leader.