Seven years ago, I joined a series of leadership seminars and a two-month life-coaching program that had a profound impact in my life. During one of the sessions, I was assessed as a reluctant leader — as someone who had the skills but not the willingness to bear the obligations.
I recalled a previous activity when the seminar facilitator had for a volunteer. I wanted to raise my hand, but I hesitated for a moment. When I saw out of the corner of my eye that someone else had raised his hand, I shot up my hand next, knowing full well that other person would be called first — but I had hoped to get noticed as someone who volunteered as well.
I then reflected that this was mostly how I had lived my life. I was never a leader in school — never been class president, vice-president, secretary or treasurer — not even prince charming. I just didn’t find those things appealing and was even slightly puzzled why some of my classmates campaigned actively for student council positions, or wanted desperately to be the leader of this or that organization.
I shied away from the spotlight of leadership, wanting more to be behind-the-scenes as the think-tank and the avid supporter, but I did not want to bear the responsibility and blame in case things went awry. I knew that ultimately it would be the leader, not me, who would bear the brunt of criticism.
So when I heard that assessment, it stung, but I knew it was true.
After that, there was another session with another opportunity for leadership, but this time the stakes were higher as the leadership role was not only for one activity but for the entire team of 88 people, for the next 60 days or so. The hesitation was palpable as this was a huge responsibility, and it would be on top of whatever else one was juggling at the moment — work, family, business, and so on.
A couple of people voiced out what the leader should be and what he or she should do, and how much time would be required, and so on — which I sensed was their way of indirectly saying why they can’t be the leader even if they wanted to — and it was at this moment when I realized I had the chance to redeem myself. I had my own struggles with time and finances just like most of everyone in that group — this was in Manila and my wife and I were running a fledgling business that only had two or three employees at a time so we were doing most of the work. Plus I had three small children and that also demanded a lot of my time as a father.
But I did not want be called a reluctant leader again — to know that I had been given another opportunity to step up but did not — so against all of my fears, and against all of my common sense, I volunteered. I said, “I’ll do it. I’ll be the team leader.”
I would soon find out, that I had no clue what I just got myself into.
At the start of that program, each of us participants had written down three specific goals that we would achieve by the end of 60 days. We were divided into small groups with trained life coaches to work with us to make sure our goals were not too easy nor too difficult. It was my burden as the leader to ensure that my team finished the program with 100% completion in all goals.
There were several important leadership lessons I learned and I will share most of them in next week’s article since I am out of space for this one.
I will, however, share the first lesson today, and that is that leadership opportunities are not rare occurrences. They pop up every now and then. There is always an opportunity to lead, to step up, to try something you’ve never done before, to take responsibility. The question is, are you willing to take the plunge?
Sometimes, all that is needed is for you to swallow your apprehensions and say, “Yes, I’ll do it.”
* The seminars mentioned are still being offered by OCCI Global. The program trilogy consists of 3 courses – FLEX, ALC and LEAP. You can read more at www.occi.ph. This is not a paid endorsement.
Originally published in Sunstar Davao.