About 25 years ago, I was on the road to our training facility in Chicago, and at break time I met a couple of friends of mine. I asked “what’s new?” and one of my colleagues said, “What’s new with you? We’re all waiting on you.” Or something like that. Now, guy who asked me that was at least as much of a smartass as I am, so I don’t know if he was just joking or if he really meant everyone was waiting for me to do something. All I know is, I didn’t make a bold move after that, and I’ve always felt like I let everyone down.
I always learned that there are leaders and followers, and I think I was under the impression that it wasn’t okay to want to be a leader. Or more likely, that I wasn’t destined for leadership, and it was wrong for me to entertain thoughts of being in charge, of being “the law.” I was to strive to be a good worker bee, a cog in the machine, not to distinguish myself or stand out too far in the crowd. Yet, somehow I always managed to find myself as the ringleader, as the person people looked to for guidance, to tell them what they needed to do to get them out of whatever difficulty they were having.
It’s taken me a long time to realize that the only person that was telling me not to make waves, not to be the one in charge, not to be the bold one, the innovator, the vanguard, was me. I was the one telling myself that I wasn’t a leader, that it was somehow wrong to want that for myself, that I’d just make a mess of it if I dared to try.
And yet… That was how others saw me. That I was the one to be bold, to innovate, to lead. They’d have followed me, even if it was off a cliff. It was my fear of leading them off the cliff that kept me from it. Again, I was getting in my own way: I wouldn’t have led anyone astray, and if I found I was, I’d be able to make a sufficient course correction and get myself (and everyone else) back on track.
In short, everyone trusted me more than I trusted myself.
The moral of the story: Don’t be afraid to be a leader, and don’t let others think they can’t be a leader, too.