Home » Features » How To Queue Alone To Lead Many

Whenever you find yourself
on the side of the majority,
it is time to pause and reflect.

– Mark Twain

I went to wait in a small parking lot for the delivery van. It is the last phase of a ‘pick up your online purchases at a collection point’ routine. As usual, there was no formal queue formed anywhere. A few folks were standing scattered nearby. As two or three strangers happened to be standing kind of accidentally close, I knew it would later evolve, to be mistaken as the ‘proper’ queue. Seeing this, I stood instead, directly where the van when arrived will open its side door, where the queue always goes to.

After a few minutes, more folks arrived, and by default, as expected, extended the informal queue. Well, it was three versus one. Majority wins? But they were all at the wrong side of the coming van. What more, there was a car in the way. A woman came along and stood next to me. She must know it was where the van would open too. But as the wrong queue lengthened, and seeing our queue of two not lengthening, she ‘defected’. While it must have seemed strangely awkward, I continued standing alone.

About ten minutes later, the van came in and opened its side door just two steps from where I stood. The queued line automatically moved over to join me. The delivery guy accused me of not lining up, since the ‘properly’ formed queue was not where I was yet. I replied that I came early, to wait at the right spot all along, and that he can ask the rest if it was so. Anyway, no one else complained, while it was his misperception that I was the solo rebel, when it was everyone else who misguided one another.

When does an informal queue become a proper queue? There was no demarcated line or area, and no words spoken between strangers to agree where to queue. But was I not properly queueing, though with no one before or behind me? I firmly set a good example by not moving from the best spot to start queuing. I was the only one who did not follow the wrong crowd when it was small, increasingly tempting as it must had been to others when they saw its size increase. The majority is never always right. Is this not why the wisest leaders are also the rarest? 

I stood my ground and collected my stuff first. No way was I going to follow the rest by joining the end of a wrong queue. From leading playful ‘spy’ clubs in elementary school, to now being an independent Buddhist teacher who encourage active enquiry, I always knew I am no blind follower, even of big crowds. It makes sense to question questionable authority, and in this case, there was no better authority to follow than objective sensibility. Now… if only I can share this reflection with all who were in the very long yet very misplaced queue!

Leaders don’t create followers;
they create more leaders.

– Tom Peters

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