Rudolph, The Overrated Reindeer: Why Do We All Want To Be ‘The Leader’?

Leader vs. follower: Rudolph


Once upon a time, I started singing opera. I was eleven and, at the time, I was actually pretty good (for an 11-year-old). For years, I assumed that the only thing I ever wanted was the be a great singer, and that it was only worth achieving if I was “the greatest.” I sang hours every day and got leads in lots of musicals — despite fucking hating musicals — and sang in multiple groups. I got into a conservatory in Southern California for college and showed up, all excited to seek my dream of being “the greatest.”

Until three weeks after arriving, when I realized that (1) I hated performing (2) I hated competing and (3) I would never be “the greatest.” Granted, I had sort of known all of those already; for one thing, I cried during all intermissions and I also was already blossoming on the actuality of my dream being quite impossible. So, I quickly quit that major, switched to writing and decided to do makeup for film as a job. I realized that being behind words or behind a camera was much more wonderful for me; to be a part of something rather than, for lack of a better description, the “something” itself, made much more sense to me and gave me so much more joy. Plus, if I fucked up, it was a whole lot easier to fix than when every person in the room was staring at me.

Confession: I don’t want to be The Leader. And I’m totally okay with that. I am fine with being in a leader position, wherein I could handle being in charge of some people and have lots of responsibilities, but I have zero desire to be the next Anna Wintour, Steve Jobs, Barack Obama or Beyonce. (Putting all of those people in one sentence feels weird. Too much power.) I want to be successful financially and well-respected in my field, but I don’t want to be “number 1.”

And, as cynical as this sounds, I know I will not be the next Wintour, Jobs, Obama or Beyonce. Why? Because I believe in realism. I believe that if something amazing happens to you, then that’s wonderful, but assuming it will happen because of your ethic and drive is simply setting yourself up to be disappointed by the seemingly lesser accomplishments you wind up achieving. You may get an amazing job working for a fantastic company while in your 40s, but if you were planning on running an enormous company by then, you probably won’t feel the impact of this achievement — even though you absolutely deserve to be proud, excited and happy for yourself.

Rudolph, for example, obviously helped Santa with his sleigh and led the whole team to safety, so he’s a beacon of hope to people who are seen as unique. This guy’s bioluminescent nose saved Christmas; we should all aspire to be like him, right? Well, no, not really. What of the rest of the team? Most of us can’t even remember their names without singing a song to recall them, let alone really recognize their contribution to the whole “Christmas” deal. All of those damn reindeer pulled Santa along every Christmas, but did they get songs about themselves? No, of course not, because they were part of a coordinated effort rather than leading a group using a glowing snout. Does that make them any less important? No. They didn’t need that song, they didn’t need a whole story; they just kept helping the team.

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    • MR

      I think Life’s purpose is ‘Did you make a difference’. Good tacticians are responsible for achieving objectives, the leader is many times just a figurehead.