There are people who are born leaders: Winston Churchill, Indira Gandhi, Axl Rose. And then there are people like you — a born follower. If your manager says jump, you reach for your pogo stick. If your manager says roll over, over you roll. You’re the ultimately flexible Gumby employee, the kind of person companies want most because all you want is to be told what to do.
If you think I am being disparaging, don’t. Being a blind follower has served you well. Your ability to unthinkingly follow orders, no matter how misguided, is why you have managed to hang on to the ladder of success. And you know you will continue to hang on, as long as there is someone on a rung above you calling the shots.
But what if you are wrong about you? Is it possible that buried deep inside your mild-mannered marshmallow personality lurks a Genghis Kahn of the workplace, a hard-charging conqueror ready to sweep across the corporate steppes, striking terror in the hearts of co-workers and managers alike?
But it’s not impossible. Or so I learned from “10 Signs You Might Be Leadership Material, From 10 Experts Who Know,” a recent post on the Forbes website by David Sturt and Todd Nordstrom.
Since no one is giving you orders at the moment, why not crawl out from under your desk and see how many signs you can see in yourself.
Like sign No. 1, “You expect setbacks.”
According to workplace expert, Jay Samit, leaders “have to accept and expect that sometimes people make mistakes, choose a dead-end path on a project, or drop the ball.”
Of course, you accept and expect setbacks. Your entire career has been a string of dead ends and dropped balls. Who better to guide team members away from successful outcomes and lead them to achieve even bigger and better screw-ups, foul-ups and goofs? With your coaching, the team could actually bring the company to the brink of bankruptcy, at which point you, as leader, can give it the final nudge, so everyone losses their jobs.
Now, that’s success.
Sign No. 3 is, “You seek differing opinions and perspectives.” This is definitely you. All your most important career decisions have been the result of gathering differing opinions from trained professionals well beyond the corporate sphere, like Doctor Laura or Doctor Phil or the bartender at the Kit Kat Klub.
“Companies and people need to stop living and working in silos,” says expert Tim Sanders on the subject of reaching out from corporate confines. I’m not so sure this is true. A silo looks pretty darn good when your workplace is a hog pen.
“Results and trust are more important than control” is Sign No. 5. As expert Randy Pennington says, “Power comes from trust rather than fear.”
This may be true, but in the years it takes to build trust, fear isn’t a bad short-term solution. Your strange behavior has already weirded out half the staff. If you step up your game by carrying a bullwhip into meetings and occasionally throwing a chair across the conference room, your co-workers will soon become absolutely terrified of you. When they start calling you “the ticking time bomb” you know you’re ready for a senior leadership position, probably in HR.
Sign No. 7 is, “You get excited about other people’s talents.” This is certainly true of you. No one is more focused on discovering the special abilities of your co-workers. How else would you know which of your co-workers you need to annihilate first?
“You understand the goal is to help them succeed” is sign No. 8. According to our authors, “many new managers think that their team should be helping them succeed.” The true leader knows it is the responsibility of the leader to help the team succeed. This is totally you. You have always worked to help your teammates succeed, not necessarily at your workplace, of course, but in learning how to live on food stamps, in the new successful life they will create after you get them canned.
“You understand the power of appreciation” is sign No. 10. You’ll have to accept the power of appreciation on faith, since you have never actually gotten any. Apparently, a leader shares the glory of their glittering successes with their followers, even though the followers have done nothing but all the work.
If this seems wrong to you, chances are you are not a potential leader, but you would make a heck of an executive.
Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company, but he finally wised up and opened Bob Goldman Financial Planning in Sausalito, California. He now works out of Bellingham, Washington. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at firstname.lastname@example.org.