“As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind.” ~Henry David Thoreau

874 days ago, I had a revelation.

The revelation was not an “answer”. This awakening moment arrived in the form of a question — a question that shattered locked doors of the mind that had plagued my thoughts for years; one that revealed a sudden, dim, flickering flame sitting quietly upon a lone candle amid dark fogs of uncertainty and confusion and my soul’s longing for purposeful living.

874 days ago, I had a revelation. Eight-hundred and forty seven days ago.

Leading Without Followers

Can one lead, without having others follow?

Two and a half years after stumbling upon this question one restless night, I can say without a doubt that the answer is yes. Anyone can become a highly effective, influential, and indeed powerful leader without followers — by radically redefining what it means to be a “leader” at all. It continues by reassessing what it means to have, or even be, a “follower”.

Becoming a leader without followers is embodying a lifestyle, a mindset, an openness of heart and a trust of inner spirit. A leader without followers does not seek “power” in the traditional sense—wielding lots of money, job title, social status, scores of followers. A leader without followers wields “power” from within: loving compassion, selflessness and charity, dedicated positivity, an optimistic outlook in life, faith in others.

This power cannot fade, it cannot die, it cannot be taken or stolen or usurped because it resides the power wielded by a quiet leader reside wholly within.

A leader without followers is patient, dedicated and humbly confident that the effect of her leadership will take root in others in due time; she must remember that other good souls, many too lost in the rat race of life, will not quickly see her loving leadership and recognize its powerful effect. They might never.

But, if they do…

If they reassess their lives in even the slightest way that manifests in a form of loving compassion, happiness and goodness, forgiveness and charity, she has suddenly won a lifelong follower–unbeknownst, even, to the soul who now follows her quiet example.

In this way, a leader without followers can never fail and never fall. Politicians rise and demise. Musicians and movie stars age and fade. Mortals die. The effect of a leader without followers truly lives forever, because loving compassion never dies. A quiet leader’s positive influence can reverberate and self-perpetuate for the rest of time.

The Oak in Black Ink

I sit back and reflect upon this journey to date, and one million brightly lit memories flash before my photographic mind. There was the sweltering air of the District summer, playful dolphins in crystal Kauai waters. Scarcity and second-guessing. Snowbanks and second-chances. Dark soil and inner turmoil.

There were the bittered lonesome nights; staring upwards, idly at the stars–my dreams’ only companions.

And yet, shining more brightly than all others are subtle hundreds of shards of memories of delicate faces. Quiet smiles, fleeting exchanges. A dollar in the hat, a quarter in the meter. Strangers whose lives I was gifted to but momentarily intersect, yet whose faces I can recall in more vivid detail than past birthdays or petty accolades.

The Oak in Black Ink

In this regard, I don’t expect the world to see the world as I do.

The oak does not stand to prove that it can stand, or convince maples and pines to stand as it stands. But the oak stands all the same: entrenching its roots firmly, spreading welcoming arms and providing widely for man and animal alike as it basks in the sun.

The oak is a quiet leader. Imperfect but whole. Asymmetrical but balanced. Complete. The oak stands tall and lives as it should because it knows it must. It trusts, and with naught more than knowing it is Right and Good to do so.

Upon my shoulder’s blade, an oak in black ink so too stands. It follows me, it teaches me, it reminds me to stand tall just as it stands–because it can, because it should, and because it trusts that it must.

Flickr photo credit: Christ[mas] w/a K