“Everything’s screwed up. Nothing ever goes right. Employees don’t know what they’re doing. The plan isn’t working. The way we do things makes no sense.”
Everyone at work has some kind of gripe, and we’re all looking for someone else to blame. Too often, we point the finger at our boss—our leader.
Who’s really in charge?
It’s a pretty heavy load being THE leader at work. Somehow the labels of boss, supervisor, or manager don’t seem hefty enough for that. We’d rather think of the “big wigs” as our leaders. But that isn’t how it works.
A leader is anyone who has followers. The role is the same whether you have one follower or thousands.
Businesses created a platform for leaders. Just look at your organization chart and all those boxes that set up positional leaders. You’re surrounded by leaders at work.
But it gets trickier, because we each have followers, even when we aren’t a box on that chart. Any time we chair a committee or team, work on a task with a coworker, or propose a new idea, we have the lead.
Our company’s test our leadership mettle before we have leader titles. They give us assignments that showcase what we’re made of. We get these tests when we’re in entry level positions, on special assignments, and in roles where we’re “out of our element.”
That’s how it was with Dorothy!
You know the Wizard of Oz story: It’s about standing up for what’s right, taking big risks, and working together for mutual benefit. It’s about the natural leadership that surfaces when the chips are down.
It starts with Dorothy who gets caught up in a tornado that deposits her in a village of Munchkins in a foreign land—a little like that new job or promotion you just got!
She has no idea what to do, no friends (except her dog), and no clear direction. Fortunately, she has a mentor, the good witch, Glinda, who gives her some hot red, magical shoes and coaches to her find Oz, the CEO of the story. Supposedly, the Oz man has the power to get her home.
Dorothy’s initial action plan is pretty simple: Follow the Yellow Brick Road to Oz. While walking she attracts her following, three characters who each believe they have debilitating limitations—a brainless scarecrow, a heartless tin man, and a cowardly lion. She believes in them, reinforces them, and convinces them that Oz will help them too. (A shared vision is a beautiful thing!)
It gets complicated when Oz gives the “Dorothy Team” a big assignment to prove their worthiness of Oz-help! They’ve got to bring him the Wicked Witch’s broom—their success measure. There have high risk obstacles to overcome, where Dorothy’s comrades demonstrate their dedication to her and their own commitment. They succeed.
The big finish is the revelation that Oz is a phony leader, but is he? Didn’t he motivate some big time performance from that troop?
But it was little ole Dorothy who was the real leader. She set out on a mission and got others to follow, even though she could promise nothing. She was willing to take big risks because her goal was big—get back to Kansas. Her trio had personal wants—traits that would complete them and make them feel empowered. They all took chances to help each other win.
Get it done!
You have your own “Dorothy opportunities” at work, like developing better work processes, improving relationships, fixing unsolved problems, or expediting delayed projects. These are things that you can champion. Start with one follower and see how many others you’ll attract along your yellow brick road.
Taking the lead is one of the smart moves of business fitness. It’s your ultimate opportunity to add value and make an impact no matter what your job. It takes guts to stand up and accept accountability for getting things done. No guts. No glory. Go for it!
What did you learn when you took the lead? How has it made a difference in your career? Your story will help us!