I was recently teaching a class on Leadership to an audience of mostly young adults (18ish-25ish) who were very young and inexperienced on their leadership journey. I knew going into it that I would need some interactive exercises to keep it exciting and help drive home some key points. I dreamed up an icebreaker that, in my mind, might end up to be a bit awkward – but I decided to give it a try anyway.
For the class, the students were to have completed a workbook and read some pages in THE SECRET by Ken Blanchard. I opened the class with a warm welcome, and then informed the students that, since everyone had a book and workbook, I was going to have a seat and let them teach each other. I then promptly took my seat with a huge grin of anticipation, and surveyed the appalled looks. One student even commented, “That’s it?”
What was supposed to happen was an awkward silence. I anticipated them all sitting there, maybe mumbling and grumbling or even complaining – at which point I was going to step in and take over again. My point was that we need a leader to facilitate – someone who knows what they are doing and knows how to guide the others. I was then going to translate this to their role in daily operations of the business – that we need a leader to guide the group.
Instead what happened was even more beautiful than I could have ever imagined: one student piped up almost immediately and began leading a discussion on why we are all here to serve! She was calling folks out by name to get everyone engaged and interacting, and then another girl piped in and helped guide it along to ensure that everyone responded with an answer. I sat amazed and let this beautiful discussion take place, until everyone had answered and I could feel things coming to a bit of a screeching halt.
My original point was still made clear: someone needs to step up to make things happen for a group. At the same time, an additional point was also made abundantly clear: you don’t have to have a title to lead. You see, the girl who originally spoke up is still in leadership training and has not yet received her title. All but one other person in the room already had a leadership title for this particular team – and yet, the one without a title was the one who took initiative to lead the group!
One of my biggest pet peeves is when folks have to announce that they are in charge: “you will respect me because I am your manager” or “I’m in charge here, so I call the shots”. Newsflash: if you truly possessed the skills of a leader, you wouldn’t need to announce it; people would naturally respect you as a leader and would willingly follow you. True leaders are leading everyday, regardless of title (or lack thereof). “It” flows through them as naturally as breathing; they have no choice, they just have to lead. People naturally gravitate towards these people, seeking solutions and asking them for advice.
So next time you have your team together for a meeting or workshop, try the exercise I mentioned at the beginning of this post. See who your real leaders are. Who will stand up in your group?