So, how exactly does this discussion about ‘leadership at all levels’ apply to us? As we have discussed before, we have opportunities to lead, to take a stand on some issue important to us, virtually every day. Unfortunately, in these everyday life situations, we often make the decision not to lead.
Imagine a simple work situation. You are part of in a small department of a large corporation. Let’s say it’s a five-person finance team. The work is ok but not great. It’s a job, and you earn a pretty good living.
You think that the atmosphere and the working relationships between team members could be far better. In particular, team members could respect each other more and communicate better. But, you are not the boss, you have no formal authority, and it is not your responsibility to change anything.
Still, you have a choice, and it is the type of choice we all face at some time in our daily lives. Should you accept the context, or should you attempt to change it?
There are many motives for not taking a stand, for simply accepting your context the way it is. In other words, there are many ‘good reasons’ for choosing not to lead. After all, the designated manager should be responsible for changing things. If you really speak your mind and take a stand, others may perceive your actions as misplaced or presumptuous.
Of course, it would have been far easier for Rosa Parks to give in to her context, to let the white passenger take her seat. After all, why was it her place to take a stand, to say “this is not fair”, and to try to influence a situation that had existed for decades? She had no formal authority to do what she did.
Leaders are often those who refuse to surrender to the context. With their words and their behavior, they choose to try to influence it.