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When a leader has the opportunity to serve on a team in a non-leading role, the experience can be challenging, to say the least. After all, when you're used to being in charge, it can be difficult to sit back and let someone else run the show.

But leading and following are not mutually exclusive, according to Stever Robbins, a leadership consultant and columnist for Harvard Business School's Working Knowledge e-newsletter.

"A leader's job is to ensure the success of the organization—no matter who reports to whom in any given group," he writes in a recent issue. "At every moment she should be asking, 'Is what I'm doing helping the group to succeed?' Sometimes we think we are helping, but we are just raising the group's blood pressure with our behavior."

A key skill leaders can bring to a team is support, Robbins says. "When work is getting done, the leader is the least important team member," he asserts. "Your job is to make it easy for everyone else to get their jobs done.

"If that means taking out the trash and picking up low-fat, low-carb, organic pizza for the team so they can work straight through, then so be it. Is taking out the trash leading or following? It doesn't matter. It's getting the job done."

If you're having a hard time letting someone else be in control, Robbins has this bit of advice: Get over it. "When you're in a team, don't ask whether or not you're leading it; ask whether or not you're contributing to its success," he writes.

"Stop being dazzled by your own brilliance. Spend your time helping people know where they are going, link their actions to the goals and support them as they get there. The team will succeed, the business will succeed, and you can say, 'I helped.'"

This article is used by permission from Dr. John C. Maxwell's
free monthly e-newsletter: Leadership Wired
available at

Author Biography

John C. Maxwell
Web site: Injoy Group
John Maxwell grew up in the 1950s in the small Midwestern city of Circleville, Ohio. John's earliest childhood memory is of knowing that he would someday be a pastor. He professed faith in Christ at the age of three, and reaffirmed that commitment when he was 13. At age 17, John began preparing for the ministry. He attended Circleville Bible College, earning his bachelor's degree in 1969. In June of that same year, he married his sweetheart, Margaret, and moved to tiny Hillham, Indiana, where he began his first pastorate.

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