I want to thank guest blogger Yvonne Thompson for this post on those inspiring leaders in our lives who blaze new trails and set new trends. We certainly need them these days!
Leaders Are Made When New Paths Are Made
By: Yvonne Thompson
“Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” This quote by Harold R. McAlindon, author, speaker, and CEO more clearly defines what a leader does than any I have seen. Here’s why. . .
When thinking about leading and leaders, I can’t help but think of those who blaze new trails and set new trends. Not all leaders fit this mold; many remind us of a flag on a pole. They stand above us waving, making sure we stay on course and remember who we are and where we are going. We need those, too. Without those, I think the work of the trailblazers would all be lost as we might once again lose our way when the going gets rough.
Then there are those leaders that don’t think of themselves as leaders, they just do what they do. They are either appointed leaders by their peers or labeled a leader by their superiors. I know this is true from one of my own personal experiences with leadership.
Prior to working independently, supporting clients as a virtual assistant, I worked for several years as a telecom project manager for a major financial institution. I had recently started work in the voice telecom department when the company started some acquisitions. These acquisitions had voice technology systems that needed to be quickly immersed into our larger systems. Unfortunately, there was no process in place for how to best absorb these new systems.
No one wanted the assignment as there was so much uncertainty as to the impact on one’s career if it failed. You see, there was no manual to follow, no proven procedure. Being the new kid on the block, unaware of the political perils involved, the project was assigned to me.
Realizing that I did not understand how to complete the entire project, I knew there were some team members available who understood how to complete other parts. The project needed a plan and a team. So I built a team of both internal and external members. Then we developed a project plan, with input from the entire team.
We broke the process down into three phases: preparation, implementation, follow-up. We worked together following a precise project plan. There were problems, issues, misfires. But we did it…successfully…several times for several acquisitions. There were missteps along the way, but we learned from them, and improved each time.
A Leader is Born
By the end of the project, we realized we had a workable system. So I documented the entire process, all three phases, preparation, implementation, and follow-up. There was little recognition for what we did, except for our internal satisfaction, knowing we succeeded.
Then the company began the biggest acquisition yet…one with the most at stake and the most visibility. Anyone on this project was bound for a huge raise with a comparable promotion. So I presented the process we designed from the smaller acquisitions and asked for the assignment.
Ultimately, the assignment was given to another co-worker, one with much less experience on this type of project, but more political favor in the organization. However, they armed her with a written copy of the process designed by me and the team I worked with previously.
Initially, I was furious and felt slighted. But my manager’s response was “You should be proud. You took the lead. This is your process.” My manager immediately promoted me to Assistant Vice President without my having to work on the project.
That was years ago, but it was when I learned that a leader is sometimes the one who dives in, gets dirty, and makes a new way; not always the one out front that shines the brightest.
About Author Yvonne Thompson:
Yvonne has a broad background covering a wide range of experience that includes project management, public relations, and writing. She spent over 16 years as a telecom project manager with Bank of America and finished her career there as a Vice President.
In 2002, after leaving Bank of America, Yvonne started her own business as a Virtual Assistant and Project Manager, YTVP, (Yvonne Thompson, Virtual Partner at www.ytvp.com) where she specializes in blogging support. She presently combines that with her position as staff editor at New Media Entertainment (NME).