Before You Lead, Follow
When did sheep get such a bad rep? It’s not too hard to see why though. In a dog-eat-dog world, with everybody claiming to be anybody jostling to get ahead, the more docile of us are likely to get knocked aside, overlooked even.
The humble sheep has nothing to write home about when flanked by the likes of mighty lions, clever wolves or even strong oxen. There’s even talk of China’s population growing slower this year, the Year of the Sheep, because parents are afraid of bearing wimpy kids.
Black sheep of the family. Sheepish. Count sheep to fall asleep. Wolf in sheep’s clothing… Every saying out there is pathetic and particularly derogatory toward sheep.
The only sheep of any repute appears to be Shaun the Sheep. He isn’t even real. And is a bankable star only because of his woolly good looks.
A workplace is no different. If you’ve ever been part of an interview panel, you’ll know what it’s like. Every prospective candidate who walks through that door – with barely any work experience or credentials – wants to lead a team right away. Nobody wants to join a team, prove themselves and then get ahead using that good, old-fashioned ploy: working hard and working smart.
A teacher friend complained about a similar issue with school kids too. Everybody wants to be team leader. Nobody wants to be the team. Everyone wants to lead. Nobody wants to be led.
Nobody wants to be deemed “sheeple”.
In our mad rush to get ahead, have we forgotten something essential? Sometimes, especially in the early days of your career, it’s good to allow yourself to be led. There’s no shame in it. Fall back and follow those few experienced, skilled leaders who will show you the ropes.
They’re the mentors, the guides and, if you play your cards right, will remain your go-to people for guidance and advice whenever you may need it later. You’ll learn the ins and outs of everything by being a part of the team actually executing a particular function. You’ll learn the basics, the advanced, the pitfalls, the problems, the solutions, the workarounds.
Once you’ve been there, been everywhere, done that, done all of that, you can truly lead. Lead by example. Good orators are plenty. Great leaders are few. Because hot air – those empty words - will run out eventually and everyone will see you for who you are.
Watch, observe, chew the cud. Learn. Then take a flying leap over the fence and blaze your own trail using the wisdom you’ve absorbed.
Or as it’s sometimes said, “Be a baaaad ass”. (C’mon! You had to know that terrible cliché was coming!)