Thursday, 10 June 2021

Leaders and Followers


This happened a few years back.

I was having my fast food fix one afternoon, and a group of secondary school boys of five had just finished their meals.

Four of them just stood up and started walking off.

Only one student stayed back and started clearing the trays. 

Two other students saw what their friend did, started walking back to help him clear up the trays. 

Their expressions like how we walked out of our homes and forget our masks, "Shit I forgot!"

The other two students who walk out without clearing their trays, looked back and gave the three a look of disdain and continued walking out. 

Then the funny (or sad) part occurred.

One of the two students who went back to help clear their trays, decided to join the other two students who walked out when he saw they didn't come back to help out.

I can see the vacillations on his face.

Instinctively, he knew what's the "right thing" to do.

If not he would have continued walking out like the other two boys. 

I guess the need to "fit-in" with the other two boys has triumphed in the end. He quickly ran after the two who left. 

I just sat there sipping my coke as I watched those two boys who stayed behind, cleared all the trays - their own and their friends' ones. 

This happens a lot in our lives, doesn't it?





  1. Hi Smol

    The four are leaders in their own way, either you do or don't except that one.

    Being a "follower" has its good and bad, depending on situation, but it also shows he is "leaded" by situation and not "leading" the situation.

    1. Small Time Investor,

      Its no surprises most who come to this watering hole are shepherds...

      Never mind we can be polar opposites or have our own favourite poison of choice!

      Only when we have convictions can we have vigorous debates with those who disagree with us ;)

  2. Those who left and those who stayed, they chose their path.

    The indecisive one, that's the sad one. Hopefully one day, he'll find the inner strength to be himself.

    1. Kevin,

      I rather take a stand or make a decision and fall flat on my face... At least now I know where I've gone wrong!

      Never making a decision or having a stand on anything - therefore never wrong - would simply mean I'll never grow and learn as a person.

      It will be 1st year experience times 40!

      Tell people you have eaten more salt than rice, but in reality you no different than bei kambings who have just joined the workforce...

  3. Take either directions is still okay; but keep doing U-turning is not okay!

    1. CW,

      We have enough working experience under our belts to have suffered under dithering bosses and/or colleagues...

      I respect your rounds 1, 2, 3 stock trading plays.

      Looks "easy".

      The reality is anything but that!!!

      Those who have problems squeezing the trigger can attest to it!

  4. I agreed with the comments that the guy who flipflop twice, is really the lost one.

    but now, i wondered since it is against the law not to return the trays or keep the tables clean at hawker centers, does it also apply to macdonald and starbucks?

    I must say the first guy that stays behind the clear the trays is really cool =)

    Some people are shepherds, some just need a role model or encouragement, some need to be part of the herd, some just want to be hermit.

    We are all the above at some point of time or at different roles (depending on our confident level)

    1. Sillyinvestor,


      I almost answered you...

      Then I remembered you are like my former colleague who often asks me what date today is when he can easily look it up himself...

      Take out your smart phone and google it. NEA has stated it very clearly ;)

      I would say those two boys who left without clearing their trays are not wrong. Clearing our own trays at fast food outlets is voluntary.

      Its just a bit sad that despite being world class in so many things, most Singaporeans still need to be "fined" in order to be more civic minded...

      Hardware superb; software still stuck at 3rd world despite many having higher education :(

  5. Hi SMOL,

    The 2 who stayed are guided by values and it is no shame to be followers of upright and principled leaders.

    The other 2 are driven by self interest. If they can't even show consideration for others when it is not so hard to do so, they are hardly worthy to be called 'leaders'.

    1. Endrene,

      Look at some of the world leaders today... Presidents, prime ministers... I go huh? People voted for such "leaders"???

      And some of the "suspect" CEOs running global companies!?

      Taiwan got its first opposition president! Rejoice! Then went to jail over corruption...

      Korean got its first woman president! Now that's equality and diversity! Then went to jail over corruption...

      Of course how not to mention our neighbour's prime minister?

      There are leaders who are driven by values; there are leaders who promises candies to their followers.

      I just hope when that day comes when a candy man comes offering us sweets in future elections, the majority of us Singaporeans will say, "Nah! We can see through you! We're not bei kambings!"

  6. Smol,

    What you saw is a microcosm of free market, psychology & sociology :P

    Elements of economics, self-interest, tragedy of the commons, individual good vs societal good, group dynamics, social capital, power dynamics, roles, motivation, sub-coalitions.

    While he may not have exhibited independent thinking, the flip flopper may be the one who climbs the highest on the ladder of life ... coz he knows who to pander to & what's important at this point in his life ;)

    1. Spur,

      I do enjoy "people watching" for the reasons you mentioned.

      That's an interesting take on the flip flopper!

      He could be the "Wei Xiao Bao" survivor. You know, where got shade, where he sits!

      Hey! He's Teochew kaki lang!

      Your input is why we recommend comparison shop with 3 retailers before buying.

      Or when seeking counsel, don't just depend on one person, or one book.

    2. I personally know of such "flip flopper",he could be "good" in the corporate life, but his personal life is quite "screwed"

      I would try to avoid such person though.

    3. Small Time Investor,

      That's why we give flip floppers derogatory labels like "roti-prata man", "twist and turn like snake", and "grass on wall", etc.

      I've shared during my story telling days:

      The Willow and the Oak Tree

      Sure, being flexible can be a trait for success.

      But being so flexible until no backbone???

  7. There are times to be a follower, there are times to be a leader. This applies to everyone, whether he is of high or low station in life, shepherd or sheep. Important thing is that when one is a follower, he is making the choice himself and not blindly following someone.

    If a person chooses to be a follower most of his life and good outcomes follow, I envy him. Lucky person.

    If a person chooses to be a leader most of his life and good outcomes happen, I respect him but not necessarily envy him. Respect him because people around him benefits. Don't necessarily envy him because leaders pay a high price for their achievements.

    If a person chooses to be a leader and bad outcomes happen, I respect a low-paid low-status worker far more than this leader because the low-status worker created more value. Everyone else is better off even if the leader did nothing to collect his high salary.

    1. hyom,

      The thing about leadership is not something we own self declare own self a "leader".

      One good fringe benefit of working for a MNC, who got budget to blow on leadership workshops, is that we get to rate our own peers, and our peers on us.

      You should see the faces of those who always thought they were "leaders" but their peers thought otherwise!

      Then there were those we were rated highly as a leader even though he/she not a loud mouth Indian Chief always telling others what to do!


      Its a bit like nudity - whether its porn or art, we can tell right away.

      Whether a person is a leader or a follower, I believe we can tell right away too ;)

    2. When there is a family crisis and other family members have problems of their own, a responsible family member should take lead to handle the crisis. Can say this kind of situation needs someone to ownself declare ownself as leader. This is what I mean by there are times when even a person of humble station can choose to take lead, particularly when sacrifice needs to be made.

      Then there are the corporate/political leaders. Of course these types cannot ownself declare ownself as leader.

      Some of them whom people can tell right away are leaders have turned out to be disastrous. Democracy and meritocracy have thrown up numerous disastrous leaders, though it's hard to find a better alternative process. Too bad some people who could have been good leaders lack the ambition to be leaders.

      Investors have been burned by bad CEOs.

      China has an interesting example with a "democratically elected" emperor. His disastrous economic policies offered the first crash-got-sound experience that the Chinese communists could have learned from. The Chinese people then would have been much better off had this Emperor simply did nothing. His name is Wang Mang. You can google him if you're interested.

    3. hyom,

      Just like a leader is not dependent on his/her social status, job title, or personal wealth, a person is not a "leader" just because one steps up to take the "lead" - be it kenna arrowed, or making a personal sacrifice.

      We have seen good Samaritans making a mess with good intentions... (Just like Emperor Wang Mang of the short-lived Xin dynasty?)

      When we put a group of people together, we can often tell in our hearts who are the leaders, who are the followers. Be it siblings, neighbours, classmates, work colleagues, members of the same religion, etc.

      Again nothing to do with roles, activities, age, sex whatever.

      My definition of a leader is perhaps different. I focus on the noun. I suspect most focus on the adjective.

      A bad, evil leader is still a leader. He/she can do what a bad, evil follower can't...

      A good, compassionate follower is still a follower, no matter what praises or accolades we shower him/her with...

      Oh, I have to respectfully disagree with you on your "version" of China's history. Only Taiwan has democratically elected leaders.

      Mainland China has yet to have a leader that's democratically elected.

      As far as I know, ALL regime changes in China involve bloodshed. Starting from the first Xia dynasty.

    4. The word "leader" is a noun. You're right to think of it as a noun. For me, I prefer to think in the adjective because it's more instructive to tell me what to do as an individual in difficult situations.

      China never had any democratically elected national leader so far, though Wang Mang was popular at that time. Actually, from Han dynasty to Xin dynasty, there was no bloodshed.

      An even more interesting bloodless regime change was from Tang dynasty to Zhou dynasty. In fact, not only no bloodshed, got plenty of enjoyable sex involved too. Pleasurable regime change. Lol!

    5. hyom,

      Its funny.

      When it comes to the markets, I care more about adjectives.

      What labels we call ourselves I don't care as it mattered less to the bottom line.

      But for leadership, adjectives are a distraction.

      A freedom fighter is simultaneously a terrorist to the opposite side.

      History is written by the victors. So who won is good; who lost is the evil one?

      Right and wrong gets muddied...

      I believe you can make big decisions when it comes to "river mountain".

      Look! There's no bloodshed! Honest! I only poisoned the person I deposed ;)

      You har!


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