What Happens When No One Wants to be the Leader?

team-blaming-each-other-istock_000020967547_largeI was thinking about the horrible situation at Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics.  It was an institutional epic fail that is a classic case of no one stepping up to be the leader.  Everyone focused on their personal agendas and did not look to be the one to stand above the madness.

It reminded me a lot of a couple of organizations that I worked with.  They had very talented followers, but no one wanted to become the leader of the group. No one wanted to handle the tough decisions, everyone wanted to be seen as the good person all of the time.  They had great meetings, made great action plans, and never held anyone accountable and no was accountable for the failure.  As a result those organizations, like the two listed above, ended up mired in situations that they were ill equipped to handle.

Every organization needs to have at least one official and many unofficial leaders.  These people need to want to take the responsibility of leading their team through the inevitable successes and failures that organizations have.  They need to have the vision to inspire, the knowledge to teach and the integrity to have people believe in them.  Organizations without these people are rudderless and will fail- either through scandal or lack of performance.

A smart mentor once told me to see a need and fill the need.  Sometimes that meant taking the trash to the dumpster, other times it meant running a project or team that needed help.  None of the times did it mean to dump the situation onto someone else’s lap.  When you are in this situation, be sure to think about who is leading the project and how you can support them.  If the answer is no one is leading, fill the void.  Your co-workers will appreciate you stepping up.