Writer’s Workshop: Lead, Follow, Or Get Out Of The Way

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

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.

21 thoughts on “Writer’s Workshop: Lead, Follow, Or Get Out Of The Way

  1. This was so insightful! I usually defer to anyone willing to step into the leader position, I think it comes with too much responsibility. But if I the tribe votes me in, I’ll lead. If I have to. 😉

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  2. I can see you being a leader because you have that innovative edge! I’ve been in both positions and prefer the worker bee status rather than a leader. I have a tendency to do things myself rather than delegate, which is not conducive to being a leader.

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  3. I can imagine you as being a great leader. I often wonder if we avoid doing so because we don’t admire those that are in the position of leader or is it that we don’t believe in ourselves? I admire your willingness and confidence to say what is on your mind. I also admire that you encourage others to believe in themselves. Thank you for sharing your words of wisdom!

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    1. There’s an old Peanuts cartoon where Charlie Brown is trying to talk Linus into running for class president. Linus is upset by the thought and says “think of the responsibility!” In reply, Charlie says “think of the power,” which puts an evil grin on Linus’s face….

      In my case, I never learned to be assertive, which has led to a lot of regret and second guessing on my part. I guess that would qualify as not believing in myself.

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      1. LOL – I remember that cartoon. I think we all have a consciousness that speaks in varying degrees throughout our lives. We live and learn and survive, even when we regret. Life is too short to focus on the regrets, IMHO. You’re brillant, inspiring, and have lots of words of wisdom to share, keep it up – we all enjoy who you are!

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  4. I’m definitely more comfortable in a worker bee role, but am not afraid to lead if/when the situation calls for it and if I feel like my skills and talents can be of use more as a leader than follower. Where you and I differ, however, is that no one else sees me as a leader. That’s all good and well, until someone ignores my suggestions, then listens to those same suggestions from someone else and praises them for such creative ideas. Um…I’m okay being a follower, so to speak, but I can’t stand being brushed off only to watch someone else receive praise for something I suggested first. It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen more than it should.

    Kim

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  5. I have done both and feel I was fairly successful in both. When I was first coming up in the world, I applied for a federal IT job with the then ‘Star Wars project’ — remember that? I asked my co-worker/supervisor if I could put him down as a reference. (He always spoke very highly of me.) He said yes. A few days later he asked me if I had used him as a reference. I said yes. He then told me that might have been a bad idea as he had given it some thought and was not sure he could sleep at night knowing I was working on such a dangerous project. He was a smart ass, too, but I think he was half serious. I did not get the job btw.

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  6. I hate being a leader but, whenever it is a difficult moment, time or situation, most everyone volunteered me to be up front and I took it. I had no issues with being up front but I never asked for it and I am ok with that. I know I never wanted to be the leader at work despite extra pay because that is not my forte.

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    1. I applied for the job of managing instructor once, and they asked me why I had. The only thing I could think of was that I thought they were expecting me to. They weren’t, so I guess I caught them by surprise.

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  7. I have been, more or less, thrust into the role of leadership for most of my working life (which is a long time). It’s not that I have any great leadership qualities or any particular talents but rather that I have been found to be in the right place at the right time (or maybe the wrong place at the wrong time – the outcome is the same) and I find myself taking every opportunity to NOT be the leader – I seek any opportunity to shirk responsibility.

    I think (hope) that this is a natural reaction.

    But if my choice is to ‘lead, follow or get out of the way’ then I will get out of the way every time.

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