“If you see a frog on a fence post, it got help from someone.”
I have no idea to whom to attribute this saying. Maybe it’s a country thing? Nonetheless, it’s true. And sometimes I feel like a frog on a fence post, put there with the help of the leaders in front of me throughout my life. In business school I studied leadership for weeks upon weeks – leadership theories, traits, development, succession. It’s an intriguing niche of study that still captures my attention today.
When I meet explicit leaders, sometimes I have the chance to talk with them. Most of the time, though, I don’t. However, I do always have the opportunity to learn from them via their spoken words, written words, body language, company metrics, and organizational behavior and culture. We’ve all learned it – “it” starts with the leader. A top-down structure is what we usually visualize as we discuss leadership. Lately, though, my visions of leadership around – in front, beside, and behind – me have shifted. Leaders I once thought led well have shied away from numerous decisions making me rethink my desire to follow. Leaders have emerged beside me, colleagues shining light on questions and, in fact, leading me at times. And leaders have risen up behind me, allowing me the opportunity to develop my own leadership skills further, something I highly value.
I have had the privilege of following some fantastic leaders and others not so much so. I have seen my leaders fail miserably with grace and a learning attitude, and I have seen my leaders fail only slightly in comparison to others while doing so with a hateful and negative attitude. Conversely, I have had leaders succeed and gobble the lime-light in vanity, while other leaders have won and pushed all the winnings to the team around her. I have seen my leaders rise to challenges and yes, even fall asleep during board meetings. All experiences have contributed to my personal and professional growth. I am thankful for the leaders in front of us – those in the constant spotlight of decision – because they are, indeed, brave enough to lead often where others have not yet been.