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When To Step Up And Lead, pages 182-187

Part Two: Leadership Tactics, 2. Leadership Skills, A. When To Step Up And Lead, (pages 182-187)


A. When To Step Up And Lead

There is a dichotomy between when to lead and when to step back and follow. A good leader knows when to step back and follow when a teammate when they have a good idea and are giving direction. “Be a follower”. However, there are times when there is a leadership vacuum. That is, no one is taking charge of the situation. Sometimes when this occurs, you can step right in and provide direction and execute. However, other times it is more complicated. You can step in and give direction, but others might not see there is a leadership vacuum and see you as overstepping. When the problem does not require immediate action, a slower approach is better. That is, you shouldn’t rush to take charge. You should “let the problem develop a bit…look around, detach mentally, and truly observe the situation”. The ability to detach allows you to solve problems quickly because you mentally put yourself outside of the situation and reflect upon it. Also, by letting the problem linger, you allow others to become cognizant of it. If orders where need to be given, others would then follow. Another advantage of moving slowly is to make sure no one else is taking the lead and avoiding a clash of egos. Lastly, you will gain additional, and sometimes critical information, by not immediately reacting. “By giving those last few moments to allow things to develop, the call you make will be better.” The inverse problem of the leadership vacuum is when too many people want to lead. Within the military, the term dispersion is used when speaking to not allowing the troops to bunch up. Having too many troops together is a vital safety issue as one well-placed munition could injure/kill multiple troops. Many factors can cause bunching including the need for psychological safety, limited safe areas, and desire to know what is going on. Within the business world, not bunching up can easily be applied to leadership. “Many people have the tendency to crowd around the leader, to invade their mental real estate, step on toes, undermining the leader’s authority and denigrating the capability of the team by interfering with the leader”. Egos and the desire to lead are the typical culprits of bunching. So, give the leader room to lead. “Don’t bunch up.”


I guess I should consider myself lucky because I can not recall a time in my career when I encountered a leadership vacuum. While I have had my fair share of bosses who severely lacked in the leadership department, they were present and accounted for. While I am familiar with the term bunching up from my time in the US Army, I had never made a parallel to the business world. While I agree with everything that the author has stated as to why people bunch up around the leader, but I think there is an additional reason. That would be protection. Inferior workers will “cozy up” to the leader and befriend them. The reason is simple, the leader won’t discipline a friend. Additionally, these “cozy up” workers also perform the work of the mole. Secretly spying on the other workers they are threatened by and reporting back any perceived wrongdoings. In turn, this makes them irreplaceable to the leader. So, the leader gets a friend and the inferior worker gets to keep their job. These inferior workers are commonly referred to as the “brown nosers”. The brown noser needs a weak leader to survive. That is why you don’t find them around strong leaders. Strong leaders understand the need for distance and not bunch up.

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© 2019 by Erik Bentzel. 

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