“She is like a Ferrari.”
The other day, a video popped up on Facebook of a guy dancing tango with a shopping cart in the grocery store. The text following the video is something like “What a divine follower”. The video (which up till now has been shared 500+ times) is meant for fun, yet it reminded me that it still exists, this idea that “a good follower is like a sports car”. Ok, I can see why “sports car” could sound like a compliment. I mean - quality and exclusivity and generally being the object of desire for most guys? C’mon, you’d be stupid not to want to be viewed like this. There’s just one problem with the metaphor: a car does not have a mind of its own. It doesn’t even have a brain. And for following, you need a brain.
Now I know that not everyone approves of “active following”. It often seems to be interpreted as “disagreeing with the leader’s interpretation and therefore making it difficult for the leader, thus making him look incompetent”. I also respect that there are different viewpoints on how much independence the follower should apply in the dance, even within the leader’s framework. But that’s a different discussion. The point I want to make is that all great followers are highly active dancers, because following is active by nature: it’s receiving the lead, interpreting the lead, and reacting (precisely) to this interpretation. Now try to do this without being active in some way. Even putting one foot in front of the other is something we have to first decide to do, then act on. The fact that someone asks us to to it does not make the action passive. We still need a mind and a brain of our own to actually make it happen.
And the shopping cart? Well, we can all agree it doesn’t have much of a brain. Neither does the sports car, regardless of its numerous qualities. I understand that leaders don’t want a bumpy ride and therefore will compliment great technique. But if a follower “runs smoothly”, it’s not because the factory did a good job. She runs smoothly because she’s a highly competent person who’s intelligent enough to acquire the necessary skills to do so.
Most importantly: a follower isn’t designed, built, and purchased for your enjoyment. She wants something out of the ride herself, too. And chances are that she’ll have a qualified opinion on your driving skills.