I keep hearing people praise leaders. But (aside from how frequently they have been cowardly and failed, lately, across all institutions at all sizes and in almost all purposes), I think that's the lesser of two roles.

I think one of the things people get most wrong about entrepreneurship, for instance, is that it is about leading and blazing a trail. Frequently, actual people who have had the type of success that seems relatively assured, in hindsight, they'll insist it's about paying close attention to how they can better serve specific customers. They follow the commander's intent of the customer, not "the orders" – modern corporate culture isn't so weak that we've lost that – but it is nonetheless fundamentally a follower's role.

What is the best way to get promoted? Demonstrating the qualities of a good leader? Impossible, for many individual contributors. No, the best way to be promoted is to be the best person an omniscient manager would want promoted: demonstrate you'll use all the power and resources you're given to achieve the goals of your own bosses. That you'll follow, not just orders, but the needs of subordinates. Follow as much as possible, and be a steward of what you can.

Leadership is sometimes useful. But honestly, the thing America needs now more than ever, is leadership by example, so even the task of leadership is in desperate need of followership.