Charlotte Houser
Charlotte A. Houser,
Hardwick-Woods Fellow, 2018-2019

There are a plethora of manners in which someone may become a leader. Some are what we would call natural leaders, others become leaders following years of development. One thing that all leaders seem to have in common is that once they have taken on a leadership position, they know how to step up. Leaders are often the first to volunteer their time, experience, and skill set in the various areas of their lives, regardless of any additional commitments. These individuals understand the importance of service and recognize that their participation is welcomed, admired, and appreciated by those who benefit from said service.

But do these leaders know when to step back? Unfortunately, there is no such thing as one-size-fits-all leadership. Various situations call for various leadership skills and leadership types. It would be impossible for one leader to embody the necessary characteristics for proper leadership in every situation. And yet after becoming leaders we often develop a rather arrogant position that we should always be the leader. Whether this mindset is derived from the innate desire to continue receiving praise for one’s leadership skills or from the control tendencies commonly connected with the type-A personality, the result remains that leaders have true difficulty in knowing when to step back.

I postulate that a truly good leader, one who deserves the respect and accolades often associated with the position, can recognize when to step back and allow another to lead. A strong leader knows when the skills and experience of another would better achieve the desired goals of the group, encourages others to lead in these situations, and chooses to learn from the experience so that he or she may become a better leader for the future. Further, I encourage each of us to develop our self-awareness skills so that, as leaders, we may recognize the limitations of our leadership capabilities. Self-awareness and a willingness to accept and encourage the leadership of those around us are traits that separate the good leaders from the great leaders. For in the words of Sam Rayburn, “You cannot be a leader, and ask other people to follow you, unless you know how to follow, too.”

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