Leadership is not Dictatorship

Recently a couple of the Geeks gave me a Harry Potter House Sorting Test. I was amazed, in just a few short questions they were able to determine a great deal about my personality. Their test revealed that while I can take a leadership role, I don’t do it because I want personal glory or accolades. I take on leadership roles because I see something that needs to be done, and I don’t see anyone else doing it, or I don’t see it being done properly. I was humbled that a test based on Harry Potter could cut right to the core of who I am. Don’t misunderstand me, I have great respect for Harry Potter. The world of Harry Potter is very well thought out and has extreme depth. But it always amazes me how the fictional worlds that we love so much can provide such deep insight about who we are as individuals.

All my life I have been unsure of where I fit in. The fact that I am the leader of Great Basin Geeks and recently became Captain of the local Star Trek club, the USS Oasis, are oftentimes strange to me. It’s not that I don’t want the positions or can’t handle them, but that I still often wonder if I’m the right person for the job.

My leadership style has never seemed to please most people, and this frustrates me. I have worked in many different jobs, in many different fields over the years. I’ve had horrible bosses and awesome bosses. I’ve been a subordinate and been a boss. In all my experience, the one thing that irritated me the most was being micro-managed. Because of this, I try my best to avoid doing it to others.

My philosophy for leading people has always been to lead by example, hold myself to a higher standard, and let people do what they do best. I try to avoid criticism and prefer to gently guide people when I think that they are off track. I do my best to avoid attacking anyone and hearing out people’s opinions, even when I vehemently disagree with them. I would rather play diplomat than shut anyone down. I try to lead with logic and reason, while acknowledging that we humans are emotional creatures and need to have our feelings validated.

I know that sometimes it seems like I am just allowing people to run over me and do whatever they like, but I will never let anyone go too far. I will steer discussions back to business when it gets out of hand, though most of the time, I let it go for a while, because relaxed people are more creative and productive in my experience. If someone steps over a line or says something offensive, I won’t call them out in public. I don’t seek to embarrass people, I seek to build them up. I will privately talk to those that need reminders about what is acceptable and what is not.

I think some people find my style disconcerting. Some of us have gotten so used to being under someone’s thumb constantly, that the moment we are allowed to do as we please, we don’t know what to do. When I don’t override people, when I don’t call for order, when I don’t tell people that they’re wrong or stupid, people don’t seem to know how to react.

Unfortunately for me, most of the time people mistake my style of leadership as weakness or laziness. I will be the first to admit that I am not the most assertive person around. Most of the time I find assertive people are swinging their egos around trying to validate themselves by belittling others. I don’t feel the need to show my dominance. I’m not an ape. I still hold on to the idealistic view that the best ideas will win out, whether they are mine or not, and I will simply guide those ideas.

Leadership doesn’t have to be about the strongest personality or the most domineering attitude. Leadership can be about bringing out the best in people, about helping people reach their pinnacle. I take great pride when I see people that had no inkling of being involved take up a mantle. When others that were too shy to volunteer for anything are suddenly taking the reins and making things happen, I feel accomplished.

Every one of us has talents. We may not always know where we belong or what we are supposed to be doing. But together we are making amazing things happen. We are seeing our community grow exponentially. We are creating and hosting new activities and events all the time. We are meeting to make plans, to discuss the future, and to plan our dreams. And we’re doing all of this without a dictator ruling over us.

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