Can you “lead” when you are not the “leader?”

Over the course of my undergraduate career at St. Edward’s University, I have had multiple opportunities to demonstrate my leadership skills. My leadership skills have been heightened with all the practice I have had in and out of the classroom. I have learned how to become a better leader by working with other classmates in a club, as a work-study student, or even as a part-time employee for the university. The recurring activity where I have learned the most about leadership is when working on a team for class assignments. At the beginning of my college career, I would always look forward to working on teams. I would aim to become the team leader. My thoughts soon changed about always being the leader. So with this comes my initial question, can you “lead” when you are not the “leader?”

Many who have not had the opportunity to work on a team, as often as a student, would argue that it is actually better to work on a team than to work on an assignment by yourself. This may be the case sometimes because the workload is divided amongst the members making the assignment easier to complete. As marvelous as that sounds, many college students would give a counterargument. Sometimes working with a team is more frustrating and demanding than it is to work alone. This is the case when the team members’ schedules do not match up, when for some reason the work is not distributed equally, etc. But when actually placed in a team where all goes right, it is actually great to work in a team.

When a team forms, a leader usually is selected or naturally rises to the occasion. With this, whenever the team is running into issues, like the ones previously mentioned, the task of managing all the members becomes very stressful. This can at times discourage team members to become team leaders in the future. Nonetheless, even if it seems stressful at times, I have always liked to step up to the plate and coordinate group meetings and make sure all members are participating and informed about any new information about the team. However, this being my last semester in college, I have forced myself to step back from accepting leader positions. With my heavy workload this semester, I have decided it would be best to give others the opportunity to be team leaders. For me, not being the leader is different and strange. I feel as if I let myself down by not participating as much as I usually do and putting forth all of my energy into the team. I have realized that right now it is in the best interest of the team for me not to be a leader. I would not be putting my all into my duties, which is even worse for me because I would feel as if I were letting down my teammates.

So as the semester progresses, I have become more comfortable (not completely!) about not being a team leader on my team assignments. I am still making sure I work my butt off with my assigned work and help out as much as I can with other assignments. As a result of all this, I have come to the conclusion that I am being a leader as I step away from my usual leadership positions this semester to make sure that the team has a leader that can contribute all of their energy to the team. This in turn will produce the best results for the team and everyone is happy. By making the choice to not be the “leader” I am actually leading. Leaders understand that they are always leading, even when they don’t have the title.

This post was written by Brianda Garcia who currently is a student as St. Edward’s University. Brianda is also the Marketing and Communications Coordinator for SOS Leadership.

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