When Do I Get a Turn to Lead?
In my last semester of college I needed one more Physical Education credit to graduate. Not being a big fan of P.E., I chose a class that sounded like fun and would provide a useful skill for later life. As an added bonus, I learned a lot about leadership in the unique environment of Dance 101.
In the ever-evolving roles of men and women, much has changed. But the rules of dance remain the same. Just like in the sixth grade, the boy still leads and the girl still follows. Dance 101, however, was different. Since there were no guys, the girls had to take turns leading. This worked great in class, but it didn’t go over well at fraternity parties. About halfway through each “slow song” my dance partner would look at me, smile and ask, “When do I get a turn to lead?”
In your leadership role how many times have you wished there was someone on your team who could take on more responsibility to help lighten your load? Look around. You may discover several staff members with great potential who would welcome more responsibility. Maybe you’ve been too busy to tune in to their unspoken question: “When do I get a turn to lead?”
Just because you can do it all, doesn’t mean you should do it all. Delegating tasks can help, as long as you’re secure enough in your leadership role to delegate responsibility as well. Employees want to feel empowered to do their jobs without having to check in with you at every turn.
In my keynotes and workshops for leaders, I stress that leadership is not always about being in charge. It’s about creating an environment where everyone feels empowered and engaged. In addition to sharing their own ideas, good leaders listen to others’ ideas and learn from them. When appropriate opportunities arise, they’re willing to step out of the spotlight and give others a chance to shine. Your reputation as a leader depends in part on your employees’ abilities to make decisions when you’re not around. So after you teach them, you must be able to let go and give them a chance to perform – and to shine.
Dance 101 gave me a new appreciation for those brave sixth grade boys who had to work up the courage to ask a girl to dance. Taking on more responsibility often requires bravery and courage, too. Today’s workplace demands that all employees learn new skills outside their areas of expertise and use them to support other team members, even when it’s not part of their job. Part of your job as a leader is to identify those employees with leadership potential, teach them, encourage them and give them an opportunity at the appropriate time to try out their wings. Look around once more. Who is asking the question: “When do I get a turn to lead?”