"Can You Take The Lead On This?”
If you are my boss and you ask respectfully, then yes, I’m happy to do the work that you are assigning me.
But if you are my peer, this question is problematic.
What this typically means is “I don’t want to do the work on this, so it’d be awesome If you’d do the work instead.”
A better framing would be to ask, “what part of this project would you like to lead?”
The assumption that one of you will lead and the other will follow is also flawed. That’s not how teams succeed.
The best teams are those that repeatedly grant and claim team leadership roles as the situation dictates.
I know that sometimes it might feel “leader-like” to ask someone to take the lead on something. It’s not. That’s something a manager says.
When it comes to leadership, we are inundated with contradicting suggestions on "what" to do.
We should have executive presence, but we should also be a humble leader. We should be proactive, but we should also have a clear goal in mind before taking action.
So which is it?
The more accurate (and more helpful) answer is that it depends on the situation. This is the "when."
Don't oversimplify. Add context. Challenge yourself to think through the when, not just the what.
We know a great deal about leadership, the process of leading others towards collective goals.
Comparatively speaking, we know relatively little about self-leadership, the process of leading ourselves towards self-set goals.
Self-leadership is about increasing our self-awareness, which in turn, leads to self-regulation (see Bryant & Kazan, 2012). It’s in these moments of self-regulation where we get closer to being our ideal self.
Self-leadership is complex. It has to be specific to the individual because each of us has unique characteristics, goals, and circumstances.
Self-leadership is also challenging. It’s about what goes on inside our heads. This means that sometimes our assumptions and biases can get in the way.
That’s why I’ve started this blog called The Self-Leadership Experiment.
The goal is to create a community where participants can self-reflect, contextualize, and debate the merits of different strategies.
This approach recognizes that leadership is not a person, it’s a process. It takes ongoing experimentation—trial and error—to reach our goals. There are no quick fixes—it takes honest, intelligent effort over a sustained period of time.
My hope is that these posts spark ongoing conversations so that we can learn from one another. Through this dialogue, we can start to contextualize our ideas and challenge our assumptions, and in turn, make real progress on becoming a better leader.