One of the ways I see myself doing my job is to serve as a support structure for those I work with. This has required me to be comfortable stepping back in many ways, and letting others take the lead in the work that they do.
This hasn’t been easy for me. As a definite “Type A” personality, I love to lead and be in the lead, and it can be hard for me to operate in the background.
And yet, the best leaders find a way to shift between foreground and background, often seamlessly, in an effort to give everyone a chance to develop and grow. This means that the leader, as capable as he or she is, must take a step back, and welcome the end results of the work done by others, even if it isn’t the same as the outcome that the leader envisioned.
Part of being a leader extends beyond providing others with the opportunity to lead. Part of our work must be built upon being there when others need us, even if they don’t end up calling on us for support.
At the end of last week, I assisted a colleague with a learning opportunity that he was leading. This colleague is an amazing facilitator of learning, and with a big group of adult learners present for the session, was unsure of whether he would need support in leading some of the large group discussions and question/answer sessions. I offered to assist and joined him for the second portion of the workshop, when the need for another facilitator would be most apparent.
And, as it turned out, my colleague didn’t need my support at all, as he deftly managed the learning, handled questions, and left everyone excited for the follow-up in a few weeks.
This happened over the weekend as well. My daughter’s school was having a movie night, and while she was hanging out with her friends, she wanted me to make sure I was always around, visible from the corner of her eye, just in case she needed something. She didn’t, of course, but she made sure to tell me on a few occasions that I wasn’t allowed to go anywhere.
Sometimes, even when we aren’t needed, we need to be present for others, whether it be as a visible support, or as “just-in-case” assistance. It is that support structure, that knowing that others are present that can sometimes allow us to take the risks we need to take in order to break out of current molds and to keep growing both professionally and personally!