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Embracing The Leadership Role (When You’re Not Ready)


The Time Has Never Been Better to Take Control of Your World

The US military is a unique and challenging environment in which junior officers, among others, are given immense responsibility right out of the gate to lead teams. They must become highly adaptive to management opportunities and must answer the bell when asked to command personnel in stressful situations.

The opportunity to be thrust into a position of authority on day one is unique, but there are always opportunties to lead. 95% of the hours logged as a leader came when I was unprepared to handle the rigors of the task-specific command and control.

What I learned, however, was team-specific command and control that I was able to use in a variety of different scenarios.

Like all skills, leadership is perfected with practical application. You cannot practice in a classroom or hone your skills through fancy software.

Here are three ways to embrace the lead in your space, even when you’re not ready.

Provide solutions, intend to act

Former submarine Captain and renowned leadership theorist David Marquet stated that “being a leader and service to others is the triumph of deliberate action over impulsive reaction.” Leading in your personal sphere starts with leading yourself.

Being dependant on those around you is prevalent today and will make you irrelevant tomorrow. David calls them “tell me what to do” workers. “Tell me what to do” workers rely on others to give them direction and thoughtlessly comply to get through the day.

To proactively seek out and generate change, try to identify weaknesses in a current process. Let’s take everyone’s favorite: daily meetings.

Your week is filled to the brim with “pointless” meetings, where most people seem preoccuipied, disinterested, or restless. Cell phones buzz under the monotonous tone of the speaker and unsolicited input is given by the same few people for what seems like forever.

In this case, you must explore the opportunity to gain control of this situation and gently massage it out of the workplace routine. Consolidate meetings, trim the length, or establish new modes of presentation(maybe suggest axing the meeting all together).

Ask people to keep their cell phones out of the meeting room, provide a briefing sheet that is read before the meeting, and encourage junior/less experienced members to present data or information that can bring value to the group. Set the new and more time efficient standard that those around you prefer.

Whether an aspiring entrepreneur or a vital piece of a corporation, take the lead when you see the opportunity.

Raise Your Hand

Just like me, you’re not always going to be ready.

You may not be ready for the advanced level project, the complex contract negotiation, or the event no one knows how to plan on time and under budget. Here’s the secret: there’s a chance no one around you is prepared for it, either.

The differentiating factor is your courage to take on the challenge. Once you accept the work load, be candid with your boss. Let her know your plan and how you intend to execute. Solicit assistance and build a team to accomplish the task.

If your alone on an entrepreneurial venture, good for you. You have no choice, but to burn the ship you came in on and learn and get comfortable along the way.

Empower and Liberate Those Around You

Leading from the front requires a comprehensive understanding of the feelings and roles of those in the back. Sticking with the submarine Captain, David Marquet stated that “we know what happens when we give people control…people gain agency, become passionate, involved, engaged, [become] participants!”

Giving people power does not need to flow through positional authority.

Have a team member who feels like his opinion or contributions don’t matter to the overall success of the team and has stopped taking initiative? Ask engaging questions about what the team member feels are restricting his feelings towards true job satisfaction or participation.

Look for ways to push leadership opportunities his way; divest control and place tangible responsibility in his hands.

Assuming the technical knowledge is there, give this person a reason to be proactive and prideful, not action-averse. Then celebrate their success and have compassion for honest efforts.

Sharing your experience and bringing others into the fold shows that committed to your team’s excellence through selfless empowerment. Liberation from compliance will drive motivation through ownership.


Taking the lead requires a little courage, even when you think you aren’t ready. And as we know — “Courage is not the absence of fear but the ability to face it.” Lt. John B Putnam Jr said that. Smart guy.

About the author, Tim

US Navy Surface Warfare Officer.
Lacrosse Player.

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