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How To Be Chosen To Lead, When You Are Not Chosen, pages 159-162.

Updated: Jun 25

Part Two: Leadership Tactics, 1. Becoming a Leader, B. How To Be Chosen To Lead, C. When You Are Not Chosen, (pages 159-162)

B. How To Be Chosen To Lead

Performance is the number one way to be chosen to lead. Arrive early and stay late. Volunteer for challenging tasks, projects, and missions. Those no one else wants to do. It is not your goal to be chosen as a leader. The goal is to ensure that the team wins. The more the team wins, the more people will want you on the team. You need to be humble so that you gain trust. However, you can be too humble by letting others take the lead. This could lead to others assuming you do not want to lead. Ensure you, volunteer, whenever possible, and focus on the team winning. This attitude will get you noticed and better your chances to lead.

In 2002, I was entering my fourth year as a high school mathematics teacher. It felt like I was finally figuring it out. I was working in an urban, high poverty, school district that was under scrutiny from the state department of education. This scrutiny was caused by consistently low high-stakes test scores. NCLB was relatively new and the term “accountability” was a hot topic. Accordingly, the state required our district to adopt a district-level improvement plan from an outside, accredited source. We chose a turn around model from Johns Hopkins University. Part of that plan was to do team teaching in the ninth grade. Additionally, an administrator was put in charge of just the ninth grade and tasked with picking his teachers and a team leader. Dan, the administrator, asked me to lead the team of teachers who all of which had more years of experience than me. I was grateful but asked him why he chose me. His answer was simple, he felt my performance in the classroom and how I interacted with my peers made me the logical choice. While this turn around model only lasted two years, I learned a tremendous amount about being a leader with Dan helping me navigate along the way.

C. When You Are Not Chosen

When not chosen to lead, you must keep the feeling of being frustrated and angry with yourself. Instead, use this opportunity to perform an authentic self-assessment to determine why you were not chosen. Additionally, after you have calmed down, you can ask your boss why you were not chosen. However, this must be done with tact. The key is to ensure that you genuinely listen. Too often, when given critical feedback, you can tend to get defensive. Try to avoid this and take into account the criticism and develop a plan to improve. Also, remember that not all leaders are good at giving feedback. “Giving direct feedback is hard for some people to do.” Lastly, do not hold a grudge against the person who was chosen. “Be a team player, and help the team and the new leader win.”

This situation reminds me of the time when I was chosen to be an Assistant Superintendent. It was a common belief that the middle school principal, Pete, was going the be picked as the next Assistant Superintendent. I was coming from another district and after accepting this position, I asked if there were any internal candidates. I was told about Pete and how disappointed he was. I made it a point to stop and see him on my first day. We had a great conversation and I asked him what I could do to help him “move up the food chain”. To his credit, he was not angry with me and supported me. Pete and I became good friends and we speak often. He ended up becoming an Assistant Superintendent in a neighboring district within the year. Ironically, he became a Superintendent before I did. Guess it all worked out in the end.

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© 2019 by Erik Bentzel. 

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