On waiting for others to lead the way

I still remember three years ago, on the first day attending the orientation of my MBA program, it was a chaotic and uncertain environment. We got assigned a task in charity to build a wooden playground for a primary school. None of us had any hands-on experience in construction since most of us came from financial or office work background. The project was challenging since there was only limited time to complete it in two days. At the initial phase, I could have put my hands up, took the microphone to speak up, and led the way. However, what I did was just sit back and waited for others to lead the way. It was a fear of embarrassing myself on the first day of class since we still got two more years to stay as classmates. It was unnecessarily self-conscious to prevent myself from being a leader. Most of my classmates were quite proactive and vocal, while I was a follower to join the team since I didn’t want to take any extra responsibilities from my tiring daily job already. Some students acted as a leader, looked confident, presented their ideas and delegated jobs to others. I didn’t like bull shit, so I waited for others to do their talking, while I got my hands dirty by being efficient to get things done quietly and quickly. I thought it was merit by getting things done.

Three years later, looking back on that first day, it was a silly decision and I missed a valuable opportunity to try to step up and lead the way. I should not be shy as an introvert as I had interesting ideas to share with others. I should not take age, cultural hierarchy or job title to prevent me from leading the team. There were conflicts during the discussion and I should be able to handle them, other than avoiding them by stepped back. It was a chaotic environment with uncertainly, others were also confused and wishing someone would step up to be a leader to give the team some directions, told them what to do and gave out instructions for them to follow. As an individual contributor, there were only limited things I could accomplish. I could craft a beautiful wooden slide as part of the playground, but I would not be able to build the whole playground as a team. Someone builds the marry-go-round, someone focuses on the swings and someone expert in cutting wood. It takes a division of labour and teamwork to build the whole playground for kids to play and enjoy. What matter is the leadership that gets result and success as a result of a shared community.

Business, social and personal satisfaction depend heavily upon my ability to lead effectively. Leadership skill is an important skill that I can acquire so that I don’t need to wait for others to lead the way anymore. Every team of our lives need a leader of some sort, I was lucky enough to be a capable person, and it is through the leadership skills that I can best contribute individually to society. When I was unable to lead, either because of nervousness or shyness, everyone would be suffered from confusion, misunderstood and low productivity. Now, as never before, in an atmosphere of international tensions, fears and insecurities, I need to perform my leadership role with self-confidence. The influence I exert is not for the benefit of myself, it is for genuine interest to serve others, without being selfies, but taking responsibilities for the satisfaction and pleasure of the team. It’s a sense of strength and a feeling of power for the team, stepping forward with confidence, handing conflicts when things fall apart in the group, and seize every opportunity to practice my leadership skill. I am determined to make my weak point my strongest asset. Opportunities to lead are on all sides. Join organisations and volunteer that require me to lead. Stand up and assert me at public meetings, instead of the back seat. Speak up. Become a leader. Join any group where I will have an opportunity to actively participate in a leadership presence. I will never know what progress I can make unless I lead, and lead and lead again. A path of success, through leadership, is not my success, but the success of others as a wider group bigger than myself.


Originally published at https://victorleungtw.com.

By Victor Leung

Experience in software development, consulting services and technical product management. Understanding of business and technology with an MBA in Finance and a Master degree in Computer Science. AWS Certified Solution Architect with experience in building products from scratch and serving as a charismatic leader.

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