How can you be a leader by accident? It might sound implausible, but it happens more often than you think.  

It happens when you’re passionate and you work hard. You stay late to make sure everything is 100% ready for the next day or the next project. You’re the one asking the clarifying questions to make sure everyone’s on the same page.

Because you got the job done, you find yourself tasked heading up a smaller project and over time you’re promoted. Or maybe you realize there’s an opportunity to take your passion and start your own business or nonprofit.  

And before you know it, you find yourself in front of a room of people who are waiting for you to tell them what to do. 

You, my friend, have become an accidental leader.

You’re not alone in this. Many of us have followed our passion to positions of leadership without the formal education or mentoring that would have given us a solid foundation. And let me tell you, that first “Hey Boss, does this look right? Is this what you wanted?” conversation can really send you into a mild panic when you realize you’re now the one in charge. 

When you were part of the crew, there were other people experiencing similar challenges and providing each other with support. When transitioning to a leadership role, those support networks can shrink or even disappear. If you don’t establish a new support system, you can quickly find yourself working 60+ hours per week, taking on more and more responsibilities, convinced that if you want something done right the only option is to do it yourself. 

This may feel bleak, but I promise you leadership is not a dark, terrible place where you just fade away. Leadership is a place of growth, but you need to keep your awareness and your wits about you. 

So, how can you do that?  

Actively build a new support system! Identify another leader in your industry or community who you can check in with periodically. Many leaders have built their skills by trial and error and have earned a few bumps and bruises along the way. By finding other leaders with whom to grow, you can share your insights and benefit from the perspectives and experiences of others. You don’t need to do this alone.

Schedule a regular check-in on your calendar, and have a conversation. Talk about what you’re both experiencing personally as leaders -- what’s lacking and what you need. By calling attention to pain points and collaborating with someone in a similar situation, you won’t feel so alone. 

I founded B.O.S.S. Consulting because I wanted to share my leadership experiences with current leaders as well as the next generation. Because many of us have done this on our own, we spend a lot of time repairing the damage that comes from leadership without support. If we can provide new leaders with the tools they need to be more aware, effective, and emotionally intelligent, I believe we can make a big difference in the world. 

We’re going to continue to revisit the subject of leadership in its many forms on this blog. We’re glad to have you along for the journey.

For now, I’ll leave you with something shared with me by my great-grandfather’s older brother Neil: “Don't teach someone the way you were taught, teach them the way you wish you had been taught.”

Terry Doloughty is the Founder of B.O.S.S. Consulting with thirty years of experience in both the for profit and nonprofit sectors. Terry believes that leadership is the most valuable renewable resource. He’s passionate about sharing his skills and life experiences with the next generation of leaders so they can grow their organizations and support their communities.

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