But I’m Not a Leader

This week’s post comes from Doug Post.
I first heard it in the late ’90s when our CEO at the time, Jim Franken, began teaching at Interstates about leadership. As we all signed up for John Maxwell’s video course, 21 Laws of Leadership, someone said, “I’m not sure why I’m here; I’m not a leader. I have no direct reports.” Last week, a new Excellence in Leadership (EIL) candidate was surprised to hear he was selected since “I don’t have anyone working for me.” In the 15 years between, I’ve heard the same sentiment expressed many times at Interstates, often by EIL students grappling with their assignments.
Managers often make the same assumption: “I’m not the IPM,” says the PM, “so I can’t do anything about the problems I see on this project.”
It’s a sentiment I don’t agree with, but one I struggle responding to. So I was excited to read Brene Brown’s definition of leadership: “I’ve come to believe that a leader is anyone who holds her or himself accountable for finding potential in people and processes. The term leader has nothing to do with position, status, or number of direct reports.”*
What a license to lead!
Think of the opportunities around us to “find potential in people and processes!”  Here are a few:
  • The next time our team discusses how to do something different, we can lead by playing an active role in the conversation and volunteering to help investigate or implement.
  • Any one of us can help the group by bringing up the proverbial “elephant under the table.”
  • When someone is being disparaged, we can lead by sharing what that person is doing well.
  • At a poorly run meeting, we can choose to get frustrated or actively contribute by requesting an agenda and engaging in productive, positive dialogue. 
Whether or not we are a leader is our choice. Remember, it has “nothing to do with position, status or number of direct reports.”
All of us–parents, teachers, volunteers, team members, executives, PMs–can lead the Interstates way by “finding potential in people and processes.”
Continue Leading the Interstates Way!
Doug Post

*Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead, p. 188



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