2016 – spring Issue

Leader Message: But I'm Not a Leader

I first heard it in the late ?90s when our CEO at the time, Jim Franken, began teaching at Interstates about leadership. As we signed up for John Maxwell?s video course, Learning the 21 Irrefutable 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 is Interstates? internal leadership training program) candidate was surprised to hear he was selected, saying, ?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 Project Manager,? says the lead engineer, ?so I can?t do anything about the problems I see on this project.? It?s a sentiment with which I don?t agree, and one to which I?ve struggled to respond. So, I was excited to read Brené 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 opportunities:

  • The next time our team discusses how to do something differently, we can lead by playing an active role in the conversation and volunteering to help investigate or implement changes.
  • When someone is being disparaged, we can lead by sharing what that person is also doing well.
  • At a poorly run meeting, we can choose to either become frustrated or actively contribute by requesting an agenda and engaging in productive, positive dialogue.

Whether or not we are leaders is our choice. Remember, it has ?nothing to do with position, status, or number of direct reports.?

We all ? parents, teachers, volunteers, team members, executives, and PMs ? can lead the Interstates Way by ?finding potential in people and processes."

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