Leadership – Ask or Be Asked?

The new year brings about elections for a group that I am a member of, and I find myself thinking back to the elections last year.  I was friends with two of the people running for the leadership position, one more than the other however.  When I was talking to friend B (friend A being the one I was closer with), he made a comment along the lines of “Of course you are going to vote for friend A, he probably promised you a position on his staff.”  I informed him that that was not the case, and made a joke that no one ever wants me on their command staff.  He responded by saying that he never knew I was interested, and talked as if he would add me to his command staff if he won.  He won.  I am not on his command staff.

For me, I never ask for responsibility.  In situations like the one above, I assume that if I possess qualities that someone wants for their leadership, they would ask, yet time and time again, I have people tell me similar: “I never knew you were interested.”  “Why did you never ask.”  I have to wonder if that is truly the case or if they are just trying to be polite.

Basically, I feel like asking to be given leadership responsibility puts people on the spot.  If they do NOT want me as a leader, now they are forced to either accept my help despite being unwanted, make false promises (as my friend apparently did), or tell me they do not feel I am fit for the position.  It is not a fun position to be in (unless you like breaking peoples confidence, of course), and I hate to put anyone in that position, especially if they are someone I am close to.  Nor is it very fun to be told by someone that they do not think you are a reliable leader for whatever reason.  Besides, I would hope someone I am close to would know that they could ask me for help if they had need or want of it.

Perhaps it is just me though.  Politics tend to work differently, but even our leaders in the group I mentioned need to be nominated before they can be elected.  Still, I do not desire or need leadership positions, so I do not ask for them.  However, if my participation in a leadership role is wanted, I am usually willing to help (if not, it is much easier for a person being offered the role to say they feel unable to fill the role, than it is for a person giving a leadership position to tell another that they are unfit).  It just makes me wonder how many people who could be fantastic leaders never do so because they were just waiting for someone to ask.

I know that seems contrary to what being a leader is, but there is a quote out there that I cannot recall the source of, may have been George Washington, but I might just be remembering it in regards to George Washington, that basically says that the best leader is often the one that does not want the job (Washington did not want to be President).  Besides, how often do those who actively pursue leadership positions, prove to be focused on the power of the position, rather than actually helping the people and the community.

A good leader knows how to lead by supporting, and while some may pursue leadership and prove worthy, others may only step up and become a leader if it is requested by others, or absolutely necessary to avoid failure and collapse.  A call to action, as it where.

If you see someone you think would make a good leader, ask them, or if you are not in a position to offer them leadership, perhaps suggest they pursue it.  Who knows, maybe they never thought about it before because they did not think others saw them that way and you could be offering them a new perspective on themselves.

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