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.
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.
Susan Cain, the author of “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking,” makes the case in this post to truly recognize and value the Type B’s, team players, and lone wolves among us that keep the world turning. Is ‘leadership potential’ the be-all, end-all of a valuable employee? Nice though it is to have, no.
So here’s to those that follow the leaders with quiet competence, and to those that blaze a solitary trail. Here’s to Cello #3 in the 3rd row; the orchestra just wouldn’t be the same without you.