When Did You Realize You Were a Leader?
My best recollection takes me back to a Pizza Hut during my college days. The weekend had come and a dozen or so friends gathered for an evening dinner and lively conversation. And boy was the conversation lively. No one could hear the waitress as she repeatedly returned to take our order. She was patient, but after coming back several times, I could see the frustration in her eyes. So I took charge. While my friends kept up the chatter, I quickly placed the order for the pizza. The conversation didn’t skip a beat and voila, a short while later to the surprise and dismay of my friends, pizza showed up (enter sheepish grin as I excuse myself to wash my hands).
Although I didn’t loose any friends that day, declaring myself the decision maker sure stunned a few of them. It was around that time that I began to realize my passion for “making it happen.” Whatever the “it” was, I wanted to lead people there. What I didn’t understand was how important it is for leaders to work with the team to figure out how to get to the destination.
What Leading Well Is and Isn’t
I’ve been growing as a leader ever since and I now realize that leading well isn’t just making things happen, or successfully getting people to a destination. Leading well is helping a team come together to explore insights, discover the best path and then empower them to make it happen. A good leader encourages insight from others to find the best path because he cares more about people than making progress.
I have also learned that leading well is far more than being decisive and taking charge. Great leaders activate team members and then advocate for their success. They are faithful supporters and dedicated to helping others deliver on progress. The role of the leader is to set people up to deliver an amazing outcome.
In my case, the outcome could have been far worse when I took charge that evening. I could have quickly found myself sitting at a table with eleven empty chairs and four pizzas’ all to myself. Today, I am grateful for good-natured friends who cared more about our friendship then enjoying their favorite pizza.