Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Guest Post - Leading from the Wings

Leading From the Wings

This post was contributed by Heather Johnson, who writes on the subject of California teaching certificate. She invites your feedback at heatherjohnson2323@gmail.com

Walking down memory lane, I recall a friendly basketball match that I played against the sophomores as a freshman in college. I was new, and so were the others on my team. We had not yet had time to get to know each other well, the strengths and weaknesses that each of our games brought out. So when it came to choosing a captain, a teammate was chosen at random. But as the game progressed, we seemed to be drifting like a rudderless boat thrown at the mercies of a wild sea. We had no game plan, no team work, and most of all, no commitment.

After a poor show in the first half, I decided to take control of things even though I was not the designated leader. The game we’d played so far had offered me a peek into both the strengths of my teammates and the weaknesses of my opponents. Armed with this insight, I outlined plays and strategies for the second half during the interval. We didn’t win that day, but the loss was far from humiliating. We had redeemed ourselves during the latter part of the match.

I learnt a valuable lesson in leadership that day – it’s not just designated leaders who must lead all the time. Team members with a sense of responsibility and an innate aptitude for management are equally at fault if the team goes astray. In fact, they are more to blame, because they know what they must do and yet they fail to do it for various reasons. They may fear alienating or offending the appointed leader, they may be too lazy to take on the onus of leading the team, or they may be too shy and apprehensive to come forward with their ideas.

We can use these points to define a true leader – one who knows what needs to be done and is not afraid, reluctant or timid to do it in a way that is appreciated and admired by everyone else on the team. A leader guides rather than controls, listens rather than talks all the time, works with the team rather than make them do all the work, shares credit with everyone and takes blame alone, and thinks things through before actually implementing them. A good leader knows that the best way to motivate is through encouragement and not fear and that praise is more important than recriminations.

A true leader does not ask for credit for a job well done, which is very important in the kind of scenario I outlined above. Leadership driven by a love for the spotlight is as fleeting as a shooting star – a flash of brilliance reduced to ashes and dust. Leadership must focus on the goals at hand and take the right decisions using the right people to reach those goals in the most efficient way possible. Publicity lets others know that you’re a good leader, but fame is a fickle friend that deserts you the moment you make a mistake. Leadership that’s driven by a love of achievement alone is the kind that’s head and shoulders above the rest, the kind that lasts a lifetime, no matter where the cameras are focused. You don’t have to be the star of the play to feel a sense of achievement; it’s infinitely better to be the director in the wings who pulls the strings and calls the shots. After all, no matter how entertaining the puppets are, there’s no show without the puppeteer!