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Opinion: Great men lead and follow

2021 Men of the Year

Posted online

Back in my undergraduate days, I authored a study hoping to identify potential high achievers in advance of their ascension to leadership. The objective was to focus on those with the right stuff while avoiding wasted time on those who wouldn’t make the grade.

This was done by asking a battery of questions to a group of 70 people who had made the leap with leadership, compared to 230 people who had the same background and opportunity but failed to make a top role.

Out of 42 questions, there were only two that reached statistical significance and they were basically this: “Do you desire a position of leadership?” and “Are you willing to follow a gifted leader?” Those who failed to make the leap by and large said they didn’t want to lead and conversely, they didn’t really want to follow, either. Compare that to the high achievers in positions of leadership who said yes to leadership but were also excited about following, if needed.

This opened my eyes to the fact that most great leaders are great followers. This also defines those who have been bestowed Men of the Year. If you consider current and past recipients, there are common threads:

  1. Everyone follows or at least answers to someone or some governing body. It might be a board of directors, a direct employer, public constituents or a higher power. But in the end, everyone follows somebody.
  2. They also correctly follow their instincts. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t have achieved their current level of success.
  3. They follow advice. Learning from those who have gone before us has helped everyone in their efforts for continuous improvement.
  4. They follow the path less traveled. Blazing a trail where one hasn’t existed is the mark of someone who has risen to the top of their craft.
  5. They follow their hearts. If you look at every recipient, you will find someone who has volunteered, donated or rallied a group to give and function outside of themselves.

The 2021 Men of the Year recipients are leaders who also know how to follow well. Following requires being in tune with the needs of those around them and doing whatever it takes. In the words of Aristotle, "He who cannot be a good follower cannot be a good leader."

Ron Bogart is the president and CEO of Gold Mechanical Inc. and a 2020 Men of the Year honoree. He can be reached at


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