4-H alumna says leadership isn’t just about being in charge

Michigan 4-H student intern and alumna reflects on the different positions in leadership.

Josie Gilmore
Josie Gilmore

As Michigan State University Extension 4-H Youth Development programs strive to grow true leaders, the following was written by a Michigan 4-H alumni who served as an intern with the MSU Extension Lenawee County 4-H program.

Leadership is a skill every person should learn. Sadly, most people don’t possess the knowledge of what a true leader is and are unable to identify anything other than the classic leader role. When asked, many will say that a leader is someone who steps up and takes charge in a situation and gets things done while getting others to work with them on the project. This is a big chunk of what leadership is, but there is so much more involved that most people don’t understand. Just as there are different personalities, learning styles and people, there are different leadership styles. Each person is unique and they lead in their own unique way.

There are leaders that lead through what is considered the classic leader role—they are in the front of the group, delegating and organizing everyone to work toward a common goal. This type is the easiest to spot because this type of leader can be very clearly identified. There are also leaders who do the opposite and lead from behind. They set the example for everyone else by being an active participant, willing to take on necessary roles and work, while someone else does the delegating from the front of the group. There are some who lead through supporting. They aren’t the front person, but they are right behind them, making sure they do everything they can to help and support the front person. There are some who lead from the front when needed, but otherwise prefer to be within the group, working alongside everyone to accomplish the group’s goal.

Leading without being the classic leader takes leadership skills. When people only recognize the upfront leadership roles, it can make those who are not the front person believe they are less of a leader because they aren’t recognized by the group. Leading from any “chair” is just as important as being the front person, even if there isn’t the same recognition. Sometimes recognition isn’t the point of doing something. Most often, the point of doing something is to make something better. Sometimes leading means stepping down instead of stepping up. It’s setting the example for others to follow while everyone works to make something better.

It needs to be more widely known that leadership isn’t always being the front person who calls the shots, and while that is a good example of leadership, it’s not the only kind. Sometimes that form of leadership doesn’t fit the personality of the leader or the need of a situation. Different leadership styles need to be recognized and leadership skills in general need to be taught more often, so that everyone can see their own potential for leadership and know how they can best fit within a team to make the goal a reality.

This article is the perspective of Josie Gilmore, a graduate from MSU and an alumni of Washtenaw County 4-H. Through her 4-H experience, Gilmore was afforded the opportunities and experiences that brought the expertise of adult volunteers with the enthusiasm of teen leaders, resulting in developing independence, critical thinking, self-confidence and responsibility. Gilmore is a prime example of an individual that is comfortable being an individual that leads from within the group. She is not a person that needs or particularly feels comfortable being the front person, but shows excellent skills from other positions in leadership.

If you are interested in more information on how you can lead from any chair, contact the MSU Extension 4-H Leadership Civic Engagement team at 4-hleadership@msu.edu for more information.

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