Enter Softly, Lead Ferociously

An optimizer’s summation….

  • True leaders assess then act
  • Don’t be a bright burning star that fades just as quickly
  • Create a ferocious knowledge foundation to lead from

So often I’ve ended up in a collaboration situation where the same series of events play out. Regardless of whether this collaboration is a work project, a friend group planning a trip, a business school project, or name your example; there is always one brash soul who takes no survey of the room or any of the participants and declares themself the impromptu leader. They hastily grab the reigns of the objective at hand, blindly start throwing opinions out and ultimately end up pointing the nose of the plane in a downward trajectory before anyone has time to read to the end of the objective statement. This person typically regards themself as a change maker and needs to prove this in the first fifteen minutes of interaction — their star burns bright but fades just as quickly.

Cue the second act. Now, as this bright burning star is leading, group members are starting to notice a void forming in the progress of the group — ideas are rampant but direction and traction toward an outcome is minimal. All of the confident and assertive proclamatory action items that are being laid out, aren’t aligning to a) the mission of the group or b) the skillsets of any members for execution. Buy-in and interest are waning, and the doers in the room are rolling their eyes over what is bound to be an uninspiring outcome.

Yet, while all of this flare has been exuded, a true leader archetype among the group is watching from the wings. While the impromptu leader was driving 100 mph on a cyclical path, this person was assessing:

  • What personality types exist within the room
  • What the true objective of the collaboration is, and what tasks will drive outcomes
  • How the group can not only achieve the outcomes but do so in an expectation exceeding manner

What this assessment has done for the patient leader is it has given them a ferocious foundation to both inspire the group and enact outcomes. What the initial leader failed to realize is that collaboration doesn’t happen blindly and as so, nobody is willing to take an unbaked idea and run with it. Others are inspired by examples of action; we as humans want to follow someone who we feel is right beside us through trying times, not out calling out ideas from an ivory tower, and we sense this quickly. Leaders need to tap into subliminal trust, not be the first one to voice an opinion. And finally, assessing and then acting is the only order in which someone should lead.

The next time you find yourself in a collaboration activity, keep this blueprint in mind. Pay special attention to who garners the respect of members and who fades into the background of order taking. Challenge yourself to assess the situation before diving into tasks and truly understand what dynamic will drive the group to success while utilizing all members and their respective archetypes.