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更新时间:2017-3-28 12:02:33 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

Not Leadership Material? Good. The World Needs Followers.

In 1934, a young woman named Sara Pollard applied to Vassar College. In those days, parents were asked to fill out a questionnaire, and Sara’s father described her, truthfully, as “more a follower type than a leader.”

1934年,一位名叫萨拉·波拉德(Sara Pollard)的年轻女子向瓦萨学院(Vassar College)发出入学申请。当时,父母们被要求填写一份问卷,萨拉的父亲诚实地说她“更多的是一位追随者,而非领导者”。

The school accepted Sara, explaining that it had enough leaders.


It’s hard to imagine this happening today. No father in his right mind (if the admissions office happened to ask him!) would admit that his child was a natural follower; few colleges would welcome one with open arms. Today we prize leadership skills above all, and nowhere more than in college admissions. As Penny Bach Evins, the head of St. Paul’s School for Girls, an independent school in Maryland, told me, “It seems as if higher ed is looking for alphas, but the doers and thinkers in our schools are not always in front leading.”

很难想像如今能发生这样的事。没有哪个神志正常的父亲(如果招生办公室碰巧问他!)会承认自己的孩子天生是个追随者,也几乎没有哪所大学会热情接纳这样一名学生。如今,我们对领导力的赞赏高于其他一切,尤其是在大学招生时。正如马里兰州独立学校圣保罗女子学校(St. Paul’s School for Girls)的校长彭妮·巴赫·埃文斯(Penny Bach Evins)对我说的:“高等院校似乎都在寻找领导者,但我们学校的实干者和思考者并不总是领头的人。”

Harvard’s application informs students that its mission is “to educate our students to be citizens and citizen-leaders for society.” Yale’s website advises applicants that it seeks “the leaders of their generation”; on Princeton’s site, “leadership activities” are first among equals on a list of characteristics for would-be students to showcase. Even Wesleyan, known for its artistic culture, was found by one study to evaluate applicants based on leadership potential.


If college admissions offices show us whom and what we value, then we seem to think that the ideal society is composed of Type A’s. This is perhaps unsurprising, even if these examples come from highly competitive institutions. It’s part of the American DNA to celebrate those who rise above the crowd. And in recent decades, the meteoric path to leadership of youthful garage- and dorm-dwellers, from Steve Jobs to Mark Zuckerberg, has made king of the hill status seem possible for every 19-year-old. So now we have high school students vying to be president of as many clubs as they can. It’s no longer enough to be a member of the student council; now you have to run the school.

如果大学招生办公室向我们展示了我们看重哪些人和哪些特点,那么我们似乎认为理想的社会是由A型人格的人组成的。这也许不足为奇,即使这些例子来自竞争激烈的院校。颂扬那些鹤立鸡群的人是美国DNA的一部分。近几十年来,走出车库或宿舍、飞速成为领导者的年轻人——从史蒂夫·乔布斯(Steve Jobs)到马克·扎克伯格(Mark Zuckerberg)——使得每个19岁的年轻人似乎都有可能成为超凡王者。所以现在,高中生都争相成为尽可能多的俱乐部的主席。成为学生会成员已经不够了,现在你得经营这个学校。

Yet a well-functioning student body — not to mention polity — also needs followers. It needs team players. And it needs those who go their own way.


It needs leaders who are called to service rather than to status.


Admissions officers will tell you that their quest for tomorrow’s leaders is based on a desire for positive impact, to make the world a better place. I think they mean what they say.


But many students I’ve spoken with read “leadership skills” as a code for authority and dominance and define leaders as those who “can order other people around.” And according to one prominent Ivy League professor, those students aren’t wrong; leadership, as defined by the admissions process, too often “seems to be restricted to political or business power.” She says admissions officers fail to define leadership as “making advances in solving mathematical problems” or “being the best poet of the century.”


Whatever the colleges’ intentions, the pressure to lead now defines and constricts our children’s adolescence. One young woman told me about her childhood as a happy and enthusiastic reader, student and cellist — until freshman year of high school, when “college applications loomed on the horizon, and suddenly, my every activity was held up against the holy grail of ‘leadership,’ ” she recalled. “And everyone knew,” she added, “that it was not the smart people, not the creative people, not the thoughtful people or decent human beings that scored the application letters and the scholarships, but the leaders. It seemed no activity or accomplishment meant squat unless it was somehow connected to leadership.”


This young woman tried to overhaul her personality so she would be selected for a prestigious leadership role as a “freshman mentor.” She made the cut, but was later kicked out of the program because she wasn’t outgoing enough. At the time, she was devastated. But it turned out that she’d been set free to discover her true calling, science. She started working after school with her genetics teacher, another behind-the-scenes soul. She published her first scientific paper when she was 18, and won the highest scholarship her university has to offer, majoring in biomedical engineering and cello.


Our elite schools overemphasize leadership partly because they’re preparing students for the corporate world, and they assume that this is what businesses need. But a discipline in organizational psychology, called “followership,” is gaining in popularity. Robert Kelley, a professor of management and organizational behavior, defined the term in a 1988 Harvard Business Review article, in which he listed the qualities of a good follower, including being committed to “a purpose, principle or person outside themselves” and being “courageous, honest and credible.” It’s an idea that the military has long taught.

我们的精英学校过分强调领导力的一个原因是,他们在为学生进入商界做准备,他们认为这是公司所需要的。但组织心理学的一个名为“追随力”(followership)的学科越来越受到欢迎。管理和组织行为学教授罗伯特·凯利(Robert Kelley)1988年在《哈佛商业评论》(Harvard Business Review)上的一篇文章中对这个术语进行了界定,他列出了一名优秀追随者的素质,包括忠诚于“一个目标、一项原则或其他某个人”,“勇敢,诚实,可信”。这是军队长期以来培养的观念。

Recently, other business thinkers have taken up this mantle. Some focus on the “romance of leadership” theory, which causes us to inaccurately attribute all of an organization’s success and failure to its leader, ignoring its legions of followers. Adam Grant, who has written several books on what drives people to succeed, says that the most frequent question he gets from readers is how to contribute when they’re not in charge but have a suggestion and want to be heard. “These are not questions asked by leaders,” he told me. “They’re fundamental questions of followership.”

最近,其他商业思想家也在研究这种观念。有些思想家关注“领导力的浪漫”理论,这种浪漫导致我们错误地将一个组织的所有成功和失败都归因于它的领导者,忽视了它的大批追随者。亚当·格兰特(Adam Grant)写过几本关于促使人们成功的因素的书。他说,读者提出的最常见问题是,如果他们不是主管,但有个建议希望被听取时,该如何进言。“这些不是领导者问的问题,”他对我说,“它们是追随力的一些根本问题。”

Team players are also crucial. My sons are avid soccer players, so I spend a lot of time watching the “beautiful game.” The thing that makes it beautiful is not leadership, though an excellent coach is essential. Nor is it the swoosh of the ball in the goal, though winning is noisily celebrated. It is instead the intricate ballet of patterns and passes, of each player anticipating the other’s strengths and needs, each shining for the brief instant that he has the ball before passing it to a teammate or losing it to an opponent.


We also rely as a society, much more deeply than we realize, on the soloists who forge their own paths. We see those figures in all kinds of pursuits: in the sciences; in sports like tennis, track and figure skating; and in the arts. Art and science are about many things that make life worth living, but they are not, at their core, about leadership. Helen Vendler, a professor of English at Harvard, published an essay in which she encouraged the university to attract more artists and not expect them “to become leaders.” Some of those students will become leaders in the arts, she wrote — conducting an orchestra, working to reinstate the arts in schools — “but one can’t quite picture Baudelaire pursuing public service.”

我们的社会对开创自己道路的独行者的依赖程度比我们意识到的要深得多。我们在各行各业都看到过这种人物:在科学界;在网球、径赛和花样滑冰等体育项目上;在艺术界。艺术和科学与赋予生命意义的诸多事务有关,但它们的核心不是领导力。哈佛大学的英文教授海伦·文德勒(Helen Vendler)发表过一篇文章,鼓励这所大学吸引更多艺术家,不要期望他们“成为领导者”。她写道,其中一些学生会成为艺术界的领袖——担任管弦乐队的指挥,为在学校恢复艺术的地位而努力——“但你不大能想像波德莱尔(Baudelaire)追求公职”。

Perhaps the biggest disservice done by the outsize glorification of “leadership skills” is to the practice of leadership itself — it hollows it out, it empties it of meaning. It attracts those who are motivated by the spotlight rather than by the ideas and people they serve. It teaches students to be a leader for the sake of being in charge, rather than in the name of a cause or idea they care about deeply. The difference between the two states of mind is profound. The latter belongs to transformative leaders like the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi; the former to — well, we’ve all seen examples of this kind of leadership lately.

也许过分颂扬“领导能力”对领导力本身造成的伤害最大——它被掏空了,失去了本质意义。它吸引了那些追逐聚光灯的人,他们的动力不是实现某种理念或服务民众。它教导学生成为领导者是为了掌权,而不是为了他们深切关心的某项事业或信念。这两种心态的差异是深刻的。后者的典型代表是牧师小马丁·路德·金博士(Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.)和甘地(Gandhi)等变革性领袖,而前者——我们最近都看到了这种领导风格的很多例子。

If this seems idealistic, consider the status quo: students jockeying for leadership positions as résumé padders. “They all want to be president of 50 clubs,” a faculty adviser at a New Jersey school told me. “They don’t even know what they’re running for.”


It doesn’t have to be this way.


What if we said to college applicants that the qualities we’re looking for are not leadership skills, but excellence, passion and a desire to contribute beyond the self? This framework would encompass exceptional team captains and class presidents. But it wouldn’t make leadership the be-all and end-all.


What if we said to our would-be leaders, “Take this role only if you care desperately about the issue at hand”?


And what if we were honest with ourselves about what we value? If we’re looking for the students and citizens most likely to attain wealth and power, let’s admit it. Then we can have a frank debate about whether that is a good idea.


But if instead we seek a society of caring, creative and committed people, and leaders who feel called to service rather than to stature, then we need to do a better job of making that clear.