A Blank Canvas
There are many sources to find advice about leadership. I know that I enjoy books, blogs, and podcasts that explore all the facets. The simplest definition of leadership is “the ability to inspire others to act.” To be a leader, there is a key aspect that, I believe, is important, but often overlooked. A Harvard Business School article underscores that the true leadership key “lies in the collective ’we,’ not the individual I.’” (1)
So yes, you are a follower. All of us must follow directions and meet needs when at work and participate in the “one of many, together” aspect of working on a team. Building relationships and showing that you care about the work and people helps enhance your leadership skills. However, you bring more to the table. You are not just an employee who gets told what to do. You have a hand in forming and determining your role. You are the driver here. Not your boss. Not your predecessor. You may find yourself meeting needs and taking orders, but at the same time, your role within the organization is a blank canvas. As you show interest and ability in certain areas, your position and your reputation will become more defined.
So, if you’re in marketing and show a knack for writing copy, you will probably be asked to write more. If you’re in sales and have an idea to move a product faster, you will probably be asked your opinion on other sales strategies. If you’re in product development and show a deep understanding of what will meet the needs of your customers, you will increasingly be viewed as an employee who sees the big picture.
Knowing this, what can you do today to begin to shape your role at work into something that highlights your strengths and supports your interests? How can you take control of the way your colleagues and your employer view and utilize you?
How can you take initiative?
(1) Peters, Kim and Alex Haslam. “Research: To Be a Good Leader, Start by Being a Good Follower.” Harvard Business Review. August 06, 2018. https://hbr.org/2018/08/research-to-be-a-good-leader-start-by-being-a-good-follower.