Quiet Leadership

Are you a leader?

My wife (I’ll call her Amy since that’s her name) would definitely say she is not.  But she would also be wrong.

Years ago Amy was in a homeschool co-op that included 40-50 families.  They ran a regular school day once every two weeks at a local church.  They would plan classes each fall and spring, set schedules, students and teachers, get lesson plans, monitor hallways, establish rules of conduct.  They would plan and run kids plays, performances and other events. They would set up fundraising events, co-op funds, and expenses. They would promote the co-op and build membership in the co-op. They would establish leadership roles and responsibilities, meet as a team regularly.

When the director decided to step down, none of those on the leadership team really wanted to formerly step into that role, including Amy. So all four decided to share leadership evenly.  Well, that type of plan rarely works as intended, and, as you likely guessed, Amy naturally rose to being the unofficial director. This wasn’t because the others were incapable, but because their strengths were in other areas.  As a team and individually, they would go to Amy for her final thoughts on things. When it came to vision and future thinking, it was usually Amy that stepped up, offered ideas, change and strategy.  She never was named the director and would still say to this day that she was not the leader. From the outside looking in, she was.  And everyone was good with it. 

Hollywood tends to portray leaders as outgoing, driven, strong and decisive, hard chargers.  And that is certainly true in many cases.  Because that type of leader is so visible we may think that’s all a leader is. I believe there are lots of leaders who don’t see themselves as such, nor do they want to. They’re the quiet leaders that aren’t interested in the limelight or visibility of the traditional leader’s role.  Yet, their sense of responsibility, the level of respect they have with their peers and their vision will often “lead” them to the front, sometimes kicking and screaming. 

Leadership is influence, as John Maxwell puts it.  And influence is not limited to the outgoing, hard chargers. Influence is about respect – from those around us – however it’s attained.  That respect gets people’s attention, and attention is where influence starts.