Un-Leadership

I am a leader.  I say that not in a bragging way, but in a very matter-of-fact way.  The way some people might say, “I’m shy,” or “I’m dramatic.”  I am a leader.  Leadership has come naturally to me since I was in high school.  And while I am sure that is seen as a positive character trait by most people, those who have a leadership capacity know that it is both a blessing and a curse to be the frontman.  When I’m sitting in a meeting or a group of people and someone asks for a volunteer to coordinate, my hand automatically goes up.  I also have this sometimes-charming-sometimes-insanely-annoying way of speaking up when other won’t.  Most of the time, my upfront approach and stupid sense of humor save me from getting my ass kicked or losing my job.  But sometimes not, and more than once, I’ve taken the hit for a group of people because I was the one to speak up.  And that’s okay with me because, as a leader, I know that you win some and you lose some, but jumping in and contributing is what separates the playmakers with the benchwarmers.

Over the past year or so, I have really studied my approach to leadership and I have learned some things about myself and about leadership in general.  I’ve learned that just because I have the ability to lead, doesn’t mean that I have to lead.  This year, I took several leadership roles off myself at work and at home.  Anything I didn’t have a true passion for was cut.  And through that selective leadership process, I realized that I am a better leader when my interests aren’t stretched far and wide.

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I also learned that just because I can lead, doesn’t necessarily mean I SHOULD lead.  Turns out, there are other people who have the leadership gene, too!  Who knew?!  And the world was not going to collapse if I didn’t steer the ship.  In fact, sometimes being a passenger on the ship was more rewarding than being the captain.  I have even had the chance in the past year to help other people find their own leadership strengths and was able to pass some of my ownership over to their very capable hands.  And in stepping back and looking at those situations, I found that sometimes other people were actually better suited for that particular leadership role than I was and so we all grew when the right leader came aboard.

I’m in a season right now where things are picking up speed.  Extra curriculars are picking up for my kids and everything is in need of a coach, a coordinator, or a chairman.  Teachers at my kids school are sending out emails asking for coordinators for school projects, serve as room moms for the second half of the year, and set up volunteers for school activities.  I know this season.  I’m usually organizing this season.  It’s these kinds of seasons that are the reason I am on the PTA board, the Cub Scout leadership board, and (most recently) a Girl Scout co-leader.   It’s also the season when my own school has more needs and demands, and teacher leaders are needed more than ever to help lead the charge through the second half of the school year, when testing begins and we all put our job performance on the lines.

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While I know this season of life, it is the first time I have chosen to sit out in it.  To be the benchwarmer.  And there are lovely, lovely advantages to that, but there are also some really conflicting emotions inside my leadership brain.  On one hand, I’m happy to be able to sit back and watch things happen around me for once, instead of being the one to make them happen.  But on the other hand, I am really struggling with this seat on the bench.  My instinct to jump up and fix things or to speak up is still there, but I take a deep breath and force myself sit sit and listen to those around me instead.

I have prayed over this inner conflict for a month or so.  Some days I feel God saying, “Be still and listen.” And other days, I feel God saying, “Trust that I have given you these leadership skills for a reason.”  Back and forth and back and forth I go.

Listen.

Lead.

Listen.

Lead.

And then I went back to my verse for this year.  Ruth 1:17, “Where you go, I will go.  And where you stay, I will stay.”  Sometimes God goes and sometimes God stays.  He isn’t all or nothing.  And maybe he created me that way, too.  Maybe I am not all or nothing.  Maybe I am born to listen AND to lead.  Maybe it isn’t all about leading or all about bench warming.  Maybe I can be put in for a few plays, and then sit on the bench for a while before going in the game again.  Maybe that’s true for everyone, too.  We aren’t all one thing or all another.  We are all parts of greatness in all forms.

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This might not make sense to you, and, if not, go read some of my funny posts and then have a great day.  But maybe it does make sense to you.  Maybe you, too, are trying to find the balance between two parts of yourself.  And maybe, just like me, you are meant to live somewhere in the middle.

What an idea that is.

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4 thoughts on “Un-Leadership

  1. Kelly

    This year, at work, I learned to say, “no”. I teach in an elementary school where the population is extremely needy. Last year, I co-chaired the school’s food pantry. I LOVED it, but it took so much time away from my classroom duties and my role as the Primary Lead Teacher. This year, I am dealing with change at home and decided that something had to give. I dropped food pantry, which was hard, but a necessity so that I can give my kiddos at school and my son the time and energy they need and deserve. I feel your pain and now at meetings I sometimes have to (literally) sit on my hands so I do not volunteer myself for positions.

  2. Jenna

    I am the opposite of you in many ways and am experimenting nervously with ways I can become a leader, even though it’s not my natural inclination. I love the idea of the middle!

  3. Kate

    This… this is ME! I’m so all or nothing. So black and white- also a “leader” as my mom has told me since I can remember. I love being in charge and my way is always right- isn’t it? Haha But I’m trying this year to be ok with moderation. The middle. Not always being soooo one sided. Thank you for this!

  4. My son is 6 and starting T-ball this season and we are in an area that parental involvement is mandatory. I think it’s a good thing for me because I am always so worn out from work and the two littles that volunteering in the last thing on my list – plus I am an introvert. I am a leader at work, but it took a good 8 years to get there because I don’t like sticking my neck out. I think it’s great you are willing and able to do so much but also know when you need to sit back. I hope I can find that balance as my kids get older and start that new season of life full of after school responsibilities.

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