The question of 'when should I lead' is often associated with work roles, however I argue being a leader is not about ‘role’ but rather it is about your 'Way of Being'. The following story illustrates how the opportunity to lead can present itself at the most unlikely time and place and starts with you observing yourself and making a decision.
I was walking with my dog at 5am the other morning when I noticed a brick wall was down and a car had crashed through it and stopped when it hit the embankment of a residential garden. There were four people present, two young people who had just got out of the car and two older people in pyjamas who appeared to be the owners of the house where the accident had occurred. I stepped over the rubble, introduced myself and asked if they needed my help.
The following forty minutes was taken up with me listening, speaking, interpreting, requesting, negotiating and making some declarations. The content was focused on the young people who wanted to leave the scene, requesting police and ambulance assistance and supporting people who were in very different emotional states.
Reflecting on this event what a notice is leadership is firstly about the decision to take action. You may not be clear what action is required, but the decision is itself enough to give you a sense of direction. When you make the decision to act, your private conversation is “I will do something”, you instinctively make the decision to overcome you own fear and concern of needing to ‘know’ the answer. Rather than being anxious (a state that is often due to us not accepting uncertainty), you accept the uncertainty of the situation and again, instinctively move into an emotional state of ‘wonder’. Our ‘Way of Being’ is made up of our own language, emotions/moods and physiology. The term ‘Way of Being’ refers to how we are at any point in time and refers to how we are observing or perceiving the world.
This notion of the observer is important. Observing ourselves is regarded as second order learning (Schön, 1983). It is the process by which we observe ourselves observing our ‘Ways of Being’ and recognising how we can shift our ‘Way of Being’. Different ways of observing are linked with different ways of being. If we can observe ourselves and develop different ways of being in a situation we can take more effective actions, including more harmonious, productive and constructive relationships.
In an organisational context leaders are seen as people who are assessed as competent at demonstrating intra-personal (leadership of self, self-awareness, self-understanding and self-responsibility). This is the capacity and capability of the leader to be aware of themselves in relation to both their immediate actions and inherent behaviours. A leaders must be able to take responsibility and effective action to address their actions and behaviours that may positively or adversely impact on themselves and others.
So the answer to the question of “When should I lead?” is simple, start observing yourself and make the decision to act. For a further conversation on leadership, contact email@example.com