Learning to lead helps teach how to follow

By Claudia Young, Writing Intern

You know the saying “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”? The same can be applied to humans. The older we get, the more we get stuck in our ways if we aren’t careful. It’s much easier to build habits and learn new skills when we are young.

One thing I unintentionally learned in college was how to be an effective leader. As an introvert, I didn’t seek out leadership positions. I kept my head down and worked hard. But because of that, I was asked to take on leadership positions. It scared me at first because I never saw myself as a leader, but it turns out that I was pretty good at it if I just tried.

The lessons I learned have carried over into my life after college. Although I am not in a leadership position at my current job, it’s helped me learn how to be a better follower. I know what I wanted to see in my staff, so now I do my best to be that type of worker. Regardless of the task or my negative feelings toward a co-worker at the moment, I cast my feelings aside and get the job done. I’ve learned to respect people even if I don’t agree with them.

I also have more drive in my everyday life. As a leader, I had to pick up the slack when others didn’t follow through. In my home, I suck it up and clean things if they need cleaned. I make lists of things that need to get done and I do them (even if it takes a few weeks to get to them). I don’t ignore the little tasks that need to be done because I know they’ll turn into big tasks if they’re ignored long enough. I’ve also learned how to delegate tasks to others if I cannot do them on my own.

I know how to treat my husband with respect because I respected my teammates in college. The only way to be a good team is to respect each other and help each other when needed, regardless of your feelings about the person. Being manipulative, passive-aggressive, or lazy in my marriage will help no one. I am constantly trying to be a better wife and teammate.

When I sit down and think about the countless lessons I’ve learned and what would have happened if I hadn’t stepped up and taken on those leadership positions, I wonder where I’d be right now and if I would be as successful. (Successful to me means being a functioning adult who is always working towards their goals and can find the good in any life circumstance.)

If you’re young, start stepping up and become a leader. If you have children, teach them to be leaders. Start learning these lessons while you’re young, and you will make the world a better place just by being intentional. The world needs more strong leaders and less apathetic followers.