What role are you, really?

Dianne St. Jean

Growing up I often heard, and myself have used the phrase “There are leaders and there are followers”. I’ve come to realize that the saying is perhaps not wholly accurate.

The phrase denotes a somewhat negative connotation toward those who are not in a leadership position, and seems to imply that those who do not lead simply tag along behind anyone who does because they are either unmotivated or slack.

The new chant of enthusiasm  “You are all leaders!” designed to make everyone feel better about themselves is not accurate either.

Let’s be reasonable – not everyone can lead, because leadership requires a certain skillset and approach; nor, however, are all who do not lead, mere followers.

Each fulfills an essential role, one no more or less important than the other. We need individuals who can problem solve and plan, but we also need others to properly carry out those plans.

In that respect, both roles require a sense of duty and service, simply carried out in different ways. When there is cooperation and mutual respect between the two, things flow as they should. The enjoyment and sense of fulfillment we feel when plans succeed stem from this flow.

Leaders tend to be decision makers but realistically cannot carry out every single detail of a plan on their own; and those who carry out the practical aspects of those decisions often do not want the burden of decision-making, but are most willing to carry out the plans.

A key aspect in acquiring a balance stems from proper delegating. Problems arise when those in leadership roles either do not know how to delegate, or for some reason refuse to.

We see this all the time in work places as well as volunteer and other types of organizations. When this occurs, it’s usually because of one of the following reasons.

Either the individual who has been placed in a leadership role is actually not qualified for that role, and may most likely be better suited to carry out plans on a hands-on, practical level. Signs that an individual is ill qualified for leadership include procrastination of key decision making (because they either cannot or do not like to make decisions), refusing to accept advice or ideas from others, or they do not want to give up control in some area. The “I’ll do it” attitude of a person may actually be a sign that that person is better at practical application than leadership planning. Give them a job to do, and they’ll run with it. Expect them to organize and plan and delegate duties to others, and they flop.

Most work places and organizations, especially those that rely a lot on volunteers, need to take a look at how effectively their organizations are running.

If your business or group is constantly encountering problems with bickering and in-fighting, ineffective meetings, and basically the work is not getting done, that is a sign that more than likely the wrong type of people are in key positions. That is not to say that those individuals themselves carry no quality or qualifications, rather, they are more than likely in the wrong role. 

Let the leaders lead, and let the others gladly serve. Both will have a feeling of accomplishment, and a lot more will get done.