Why You Should Find Potential in People and Processes

But, I’m Not a Leader

I first heard it in the late 90’s when our then CEO, Jim Franken, began teaching leadership at Interstates. We were all signing 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 and I have no direct reports.” More recently, an Excellence in Leadership (EIL) candidate expressed surprise at hearing he was selected for the leadership course since he “didn’t have anyone working for him.” In the fifteen years between, I’ve heard many similar sentiments at Interstates. Often from 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.” I don’t agree with this mindset and struggle finding an appropriate response.

Interestingly, I found my answer in Brene’ Brown’s definition of leadership. She states, “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!

Choosing to Lead

Think of the opportunities around you to find potential in people and processes. Here are a few that come to mind:

  • When our team discusses how to do something different. Lead by playing an active role in the conversation and volunteer to help investigate or implement.
  • Any one of us can help the group by bringing up the proverbial “elephant under the table.”
  • If someone is being disparaged, lead by sharing what that person is doing well.
  • In a poorly run meeting, we can choose to get frustrated or actively contribute. You can contribute by requesting an agenda and engaging in productive, positive dialogue.

Whether or not we are a leader is our choice. If you doubt yourself as a leader just remember it has nothing to do with position, status or number of direct reports. All of us – parents, teachers, volunteers, team members, executives and managers – can lead the Interstates way by finding potential in people and processes.

Keep leading the Interstates way!


Doug Post, Interstates Engineering President


Brown, B. (2016). Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. London: Penguin Books Ltd.


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