If you're like me, you're discovering that as you build your brand, people are beginning to look to you for direction, for guidance…for leadership. You hadn't really believed it would come to this. You thought you would serve a small core of ideal customers—help them to solve their problems and live better lives. And yet, it seems to be growing beyond that.
If you're feeling like you're in over your head, or if you become uncomfortable (or experience self-doubt) when people look to you for guidance, then you are a Reluctant Leader.
I hadn't identified as a reluctant leader until I slept with the wolf pack at Wolf Connection in Acton, California. I already knew that every pack had an Alpha leader. What I didn't realise is that not every Alpha is loud, large or authoritative. In many cases, the Alpha is born with leadership qualities that others can perceive, causing them to naturally want to follow that wolf. Often, the Alpha hadn't planned on being a leader…doesn't even really like doing it. However, he or she is called to this duty by nature and must therefore 'go with it' and do the best he or she can, for the good of the pack.
These same tendencies are within many of us, too.
Which pack role do you naturally fall into?
- Alpha: the born leader, the one the others look to for guidance and example
- Beta: the born leader who works just under the Alpha, second in command
- Tracker: the work horse, the pack's resource finder
- Omega: the problem solver who supports all pack initiatives, often from behind the scenes
And before you name your role, stop to consider this:
In his 1999 report titled Alpha Status, Dominance, and Division of Labor in Wolf Packs, David Mech maintains that the Alpha Dog image many of us have conjured is incorrect; that, in fact, the Alpha rarely initiates confrontation, and is more of a leader by example…a matriarch or patriarch, deemed so by nature, not by attitude.
If you're a reluctant leader, you may hesitate to grasp this concept. You'll want to hold onto that image of a snarling, authoritarian Alpha leader. Why? Because that means you can still shrug off leadership with excuses like I'm not assertive enough or I don't like conflict.
Well, Alpha and Beta leaders of the wolf pack don't like any of those things, either. They rarely have to assert themselves; they are not confrontational or domineering. In fact, those wolves with tendencies to cause inner turmoil are banished from the pack.
The most effective leaders are those who have the respect of their pack, their tribe, their audience…whatever you choose to call it. They always operate with integrity, people notice, and therefore they gain trust. In a brand-building scenario, this is integral to the success of your business—because without trust and respect, you have nothing.
About two years ago, there was a photo of a wolf pack being shared on social media, along with a story claiming that the leader of the wolf pack walks at the back of the line, so that the weak ones can be supervised and ultimately saved from being picked off by predators.
This story has been proven to be fraudulent, and yet, it garnered massive amounts of attention and 'proof' for people who are reluctant leaders. Why? They wanted to believe that it's okay to hang back, to keep an eye on the rest of the pack without having to go first; without having to create the tracks that the others will follow.
Chadden Hunter, the photographer who took the famous shot for Frozen Planet, a 2011 BBC documentary, explained that the Alpha female was actually first in the line, taking the responsibility of carving out a path in the snow so the others could save their energy.
That is profound. Add that to what we've already learnt, and you now know that the Alpha leader is not only non-confrontational…she is also selfless and thoroughly concerned with the welfare of her pack.
Are your views of leadership beginning to shift?
Are you feeling more willing to take on the leadership role (or other role) that nature has gifted to you?
You might feel like you've been left holding the control, and even though you want to hand it off to someone else, you know you can't. You know that others are looking to you to lead them.
I'm here to tell you that you're not alone in feeling this way, and that these emotions do not make you any less competent as a leader. In fact, reluctant leaders often make the best managers, CEOs, entrepreneurs and business owners. You see, they're not focussed on notoriety or 'being heard.' Instead, they're focussed on the pack, and on the success of each member.
I recently talked about my experiences at Wolf Connection and the filming of the Apprentice-type show Change Makers in the How to Build a Brand Facebook group. If you're not a member there, I would suggest you join (it's FREE) and watch the Brand Breakthroughs session from 23rd August. I learnt so much about leadership (and about myself) and I want you to have the opportunity to experience that, too. See you there!