March 20, 2005

Good day, team,

The coach’s challenge this week is about not being afraid to lead. In thinking about this subject, I remembered a defining moment in my own life, when I was elected president of my eighth grade class. It was a hard campaign against the star quarterback of our junior high school, and I won by only two votes (one of which was mine, of course).

But the evening after the election I began to wonder what I was supposed to do next. Campaigning was something I had learned how to do well and for which I had a natural talent. I was able to persuade others to my point of view about a new menu for the school cafeteria. I managed to get different cliques within the school to come together and vote for issues they shared, rather than disagreed upon. I rallied for the school choir when it was threatened with extinction and found a new source of funding to keep it alive. I had no problem speaking in front of the student body about issues that mattered, and I was able to create a win-win spirit within the crowd to get projects initiated. The campaign had been about selling, persuading and winning. But what was I supposed to do now? When I presented my father with this conundrum, he counseled me, “Don’t be afraid to lead. You’ve earned it.”

Truth be told, I was afraid to lead. It wasn’t that I was afraid to tell others what to do or to act as the representative for the student body. The real truth was that I was afraid to be wrong. How could I lead others if my decisions were unpopular? It was easy for me to encourage others to cooperate, but what would I do if, after getting others to buy in, I didn’t always get the best results? How could I be the leader if I led others in the wrong direction?

Looking back, I understand that leadership is not about being right or wrong, but much more about being courageous enough to continue on your course even in the face of adversity. Leadership involves remembering past mistakes as well as analyzing what’s happening today and then adjusting one’s vision. Someone once told me, “A man who wants to lead the orchestra must turn his back on the crowd.” The best leaders stay the course, even in light of diverse opinions. Surprisingly, I learned that people like to be led. They are relieved when given direction. It motivates them to move toward a common goal.

I encourage each of you this week to “be the leader you have already become.” Don’t be afraid to stand out in the crowd and direct others to move in the best direction. We embody years of experience and understanding that make up the foundation we stand upon when we lead. Don’t let self-doubt fool you into thinking that the leadership role you’ve attained hasn’t been won by hard work, vigilance and the ability to inspire others.

Have a great week!


Kathleen Doyle-White
Pathfinders Coaching
2839 NE Hoyt Street
Portland, Oregon 97232
(503) 296-9249

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