My husband and I once attended an event to build houses for homeless dogs. It was the kind of event that you picked the time you could work and what job you wanted to do prior to the event, then showed up and went to work.
In theory it sounded great.
When we got to the event, it was a different story. We had signed up to paint, and there were several people standing around the paint area, waiting for finished houses. We looked around, and there were finished houses waiting to be moved to the painting area, and painted houses that were dry taking up space.
Without thinking, Shaun and I started recruiting volunteers to move the houses. Shaun and another man moved homes while I got information on where to place the finished houses. On my way back, I directed what was now several workers as to where to put the houses and recruited another person to help me move one. Before long, we had streamlined the process – and I had people coming up to ask me questions, thinking I was one of the project leaders.
In a situation closer to home, I was tired of waiting for the rest of the committee to act on things that needed to get done ASAP. So, I stepped up, created project plans, assigned champions to each project and requested regular updates. When I didn’t receive them, I followed up, offering to assist if necessary.
In both cases, I stepped in with the goal of finishing the project. As I stepped in and directed others, I expected push back, or at least resentment. It didn’t happen. Instead, people were taking responsibility and looking to me for further instruction. Somehow, without intending to, I had become the leader.
Leadership is different from being a boss. There is a saying, “a boss owns the title, a leader owns the people”. I believe this because I’ve seen this from both sides. A leader does more than delegate – he’s in the trenches with you. She’s dividing up the work and setting up a system to define roles and hold people accountable in order to get things done. That’s all I did – who knew that was leadership?
If this describes you, don’t be afraid to step up to achieve the goals. If you focus on completing the project, are willing to pitch in and know when to delegate, chances are people will be happy to pitch in and help you.
That’s when you become a leader.