Suddenly, There You Are
“You may find yourself in a…
And you may ask yourself
How did I get here?” ~ B. Eno, C. Franz, T. Weymouth, D. Byrne, J. Harrison
Did you ever wonder how you became a leader? It wasn’t your childhood dream. Nor was it a response to “what do you want to be when you grow up?” If Aladdin’s genie from 1001 Arabian Nights had asked for three wishes I bet you wouldn’t have said, “make me a leader”. Yet, one day you looked in the mirror, and there you were.
You remember what it feels like to be a leader because it’s ingrained in your long-term memory. It started when you were very young. You played follow the leader or “Simon Says”. Sometimes you were the leader or “Simon” because everyone had their chance. It was equitable. And it was your first glimpse of leadership.
And perhaps your story evolves much like mine. It happens without your intentional actions. It wasn’t something you signed up for.
After years of playing “Simon Says”, I was never the captain of a sports team in school, nor the founder of a school club. However, my first grownup taste of leadership was when I was chosen as one of three student representatives to my high school’s executive committee of teachers and administrators.
Then during college, I was elected as the Panhellenic representative from my sorority to the sorority Board for two years. I believe the nomination came about because I was friendly with people in other sororities. Most of our sorority members cultivated friendships purely within our sorority.
Enter the post college phase, finding myself in similar circumstances plus the added responsibility of people.
Five years into my professional career in a new position, my boss nominated me for our professional services trade organization as Vice President with the Presidency to follow automatically. “I’m recommending you because you’ll be really good at this.” I remember not asking if I was up to the task but looking at her as if she was daft; running for a position, let alone Vice President then President, was something that had never entered my mind. Yet as President I increased membership by 200%. Again, not my Aladdin wish, yet simply something I worked at after I was elected.
At the same time, our firm had never had a running team for the NYC Corporate Challenge, a fun 5K race in which many organizations competed. I thought “wouldn’t it be fun if we could enter the challenge? We have quite a few runners in our firm including me.” I became the founder, captain, trainer and organizer of our first two corporate challenges. It brought a great sense of community and loyalty to the firm we had never had before. People loved it.
Do you see a thread here? And can you relate? A thread of opportunities, like mine, where you were elected, promoted, or saw a chance to inspire a group of people around a goal or cause. It was obvious to everyone else that you had definite leadership qualities and the presence of a leader, yet you may not have seen it or felt it for a long time. You never laid claim to having leadership skills. It was just something you did.
I never was recognized as a leader by my family. I wasn’t the bossy take charge one of my close friends. Pretty positive that I wouldn’t be described as pushy. If I wasn’t an employee of a large organization leading a huge department or business, the title “leader” didn’t seem to fit my image of myself. Yet I was an influencer; not in the sense of social media spreading my opinion, but of organizing, inspiring, communicating and guiding. Are these words you would also use to describe your role or experience?
You and I are here: We are leaders no matter our unintentional roadmap. Our roots in leadership are deep and our journey keeps us grounded yet continually learning and discovering how to be a leader for now.
It’s the right time to recognize what others had been telling and showing you. The role you’ve been playing for years, you are not simply “pretending”, you are doing. You are doing it well enough that people have promoted you, nominated you, awarded you, listened and followed you. As Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull wrote and sang, “one day you wake up, in the present day. A million generations removed from expectations of being who you really want to be”. Because you are.
Imagine the impact you could have if you fully stepped into your role as leader, mastering the skills you need for today’s hybrid environment. This is where I can help you. My work as a leadership and communication expert has me go into organizations, as an outside unbiased view to look at the information gaps. With 25 years of executive search consulting and coaching experience, examining the behaviors around developing and retaining talent at companies, I come prepared to support you. Along with proprietary and trademarked solutions including a team mapping tool, Collaboration Beyond Words™, I identify what you may have missed in your organization that’s holding it back from thriving. Have practices become too entrenched or no longer fit your plans for today’s workplace and goals? Contact me: Susan@SusanGoldbergLeadership.com Let’s talk.