Who’s the boss? The one whose example people actually follow.
As my wife has been finishing up her Master’s program in Childhood Education, she recently opened my eyes to a simple concept I never realized before: Children crave structure. And when there is no structure, no outlined expectations, no explained behavior guidelines for them, chaos proceeds. Kids look for the “pack leader” (as Dog Whisperer, Cesar Millan explains regarding the dog world) to help instruct them on how to be productive and helpful in their society.
This “aim to please” mentality doesn’t disappear once we enter the adult world. Though it may be easier to complain about a superior or an authority figure behind their back than it is to praise them in person for keeping us the security they provide, we still recognize them as the pack leader. There’s still an understood respect we hold for them, because after all, we still crave structure and the pack leader is the main supplier. And we all have a personal need to be needed.
But in addition to the established leader and teacher of the group, there is the honorary leader, who may have no official important title, but still guides others by his or her actions and attitude. And in my opinion, this “honorary pack leader” has more impact that the established pack leader: For all practical purposes, the honorary pack leader is the actual pack leader.
In all social circles (clubs, churches, sports, work environments, etc.), it’s the person who establishes what being “on time” means, who sets the work pace for the group because his or her peers mimic the honorary pack leader’s own level of activity, and who has an overall calm-assertive attitude. In other words, this person knows how to respect the establishment’s own politics (a major key to survival); and yet how to stay out of them as well.
It’s the person who the general population follows by example, not necessarily because he or she is the most outspoken or demands the most attention, but because the honorary pack leader naturally takes the most productive, logical, and sincere path to success (or at least the path of safety from being picked out as the slacker or weakest link). And others notice. There are always established leaders in a group, and sure, they make the rules. But the honorary pack leader makes the rules that the rest of the group actually follows.