You Don't Need To Be The Leader Of Your Friend Group To Have A Fulfilling Social Life
Some people don't just want a group of friends. They want to be the leader, the center that everything revolves around, the mover and shaker in their social circle. They want everyone to look up to them. They want to plan most of the get togethers, and have everyone eager to attend. They want the other members to defer to their choices and opinions.
There's nothing wrong with wanting to be popular, respected, or influential among your buddies. It's an understandable goal. However, some lonely, awkward people want to improve their social lives, and assume the only way they'll feel happy and fulfilled is if they become the top dog of a clique. I'll make my case that you don't need to be the group leader to have a rewarding social life. I'll also explain how sometimes being an important member of a group isn't as great as you might think it is.
Not all friend groups have a clear cut leader or most popular member
Some social circles certainly do, but life isn't always like a high school or college movie, where a Queen Bee may rule over her friends. In many groups everyone is more or less on an equal level. They all like and respect each other to about the same degree. They decide on plans together, or take turns suggesting things. Or there might be one or two people who take on the Planner role, but it doesn't make them super-powerful. Yeah, if you carefully monitored them for a few months you'd see some friends did have a bit more sway than others, but day to day no one really thinks that way.
Being the group leader doesn't always provide amazing benefits
People can want to be the group leader because they believe it will give them all sorts of perks. It can, but it doesn't always have the pay off they expect:
- Respect and admiration from your group - Even if you have traits that put you at the center of the group, your friends may not be overflowing with awe. They may have a tad more respect for you than the other members, but nothing that noticeable. They won't treat you differently than anyone else. It's not a constant ego boost.
- Respect and admiration from people outside your group - Many people may not notice or care that you're the leader of your social circle.
- If you're a single straight guy, attention from women - Again, many women may not notice you're the leader, or be indifferent to it. They're not all going to be irresistibly attracted to you because you're at the top of the hierarchy... in your group of four guy buddies.
- A way to compensate for being rejected when you were younger - Some people are motivated to become a popular group leader because they think if they can reach that point it will cancel out the pain and low self-esteem they have from being picked on or left out as a kid. But gaining popularity often doesn't give the sense of closure they think it will.
On the other hand, there are plenty of ways to be respected, attractive, or secure with yourself without being the superstar of a social circle.
Being the group's event planner can be a thankless job
People may assume if they were the group's planner then that would automatically make them important and powerful among their friends. They think if everyone regularly agrees to someone's plans it must be because they respect them so much, and want to follow whatever they propose. Or they believe if someone's managed to become the planner they won the spot over their other friends, because they put together the best outings, and everyone admires them for it.
Popularity and planning aren't always connected. Often being the group planner is seen in a neutral light, or even unappreciated. Everyone is glad when someone arranges a get together, or hosts an event at their place, but they don't necessarily think the person who organized it is amazing or in charge. They may even take them for granted, and not pull their own weight. Many planners say things like, "My friends are all lazy and scatterbrained. If I didn't put in the work no one in this group would ever meet up." A social circle may have a more popular or respected member who doesn't do much planning, and is happy to go along with whatever everyone else decides.
Being the in-demand popular person doesn't fit everyone's personality
Some people chase a leadership role because it just seems like it would be good to have. They don't take a moment to consider whether it gels with their personality or social style:
- Not everyone even likes having a group of buddies. Some prefer a bunch of one-on-one friendships.
- Not everyone likes being responsible for making decisions, like what the group will do on the weekend. They're happier to arrange the odd hang out, or give feedback on another member's suggestion, but not be involved with the planning every week.
- Not everyone is comfortable with being admired and looked up to. They prefer to fly under the radar, not be in the spotlight. They get a bit uneasy when someone makes a joke, then looks to them expectantly to see if they've laughed. They don't want to feel like their friends' self-esteem hinges on their approval.
- Not everyone has patience for the little power games that can come from being on top. Not every group is full of Machiavelian maneuvering, but sometimes when you're the group's leader a friend may make a little dig at you, or try to knock you down a peg. Some people find that kind of politics pointless and annoying.
As I said, it's okay if a part of you wants to be your social circle's leader. But don't feel it's something you must go after. If you make friends with a group of nice, fun people who you have a lot in common with, you'll probably be quite happy as a regular member. And if you do become the leader it may not be as life changing as you imagine it will.
This article is on a closely related, but not quite the same, topic: