Are You An Accidental Leader?


The Accidental Leader is a common breed of leader. They are those people that don’t necessarily set out to become leaders but through “good luck” or “being in the right place at the right time” fall into the role. Some battle along, trying to work out what this mystical new role requires of them while others rise to the top, grab the opportunity it by both hands and become superstars in their field.

I had the privilege of meeting several of these superstar Accidental Leaders over the last few days while chairing a women in leadership conference.

Let me tell you about Faith, one of these Accidental Leaders.

Faith, in her own words was the elder statesman in the room and was an accidental leader. She had risen to the top of her field at a time when female leaders where unheard of. She spoke about being the only women at the leadership table from early on in her career and having to overcome the relentless stereotypical belief at the time that women did not belong in the leadership club.

So how did Faith and the other women become superstars in their field?

Here are some common themes that were consistent throughout the 2 days of presentations.

1.  See leadership as an adventure. Playing the safe game will not get you the opportunities that you are looking for. Be bold and take some risk… or at least calculated risk. By stepping outside your comfort zone you will constantly be growing your skills and be seen and noticed by those that matter.

2.  Understand that NO does not mean NO. It just means not now. You will undoubtedly come across roadblocks, challenges and disappointments along the way. Persistence and self belief is critical.

Know that missing out on promotions or interesting project opportunities is not a sign of failure. Look for the learning from the experience and get back on the horse and try again.

3.  Get involved. Raise your profile and your networks by getting involved in both internal and external projects. You may not be able to see where these projects will lead you but have faith that they will.

4.  Toughen Up. Stop taking things so personally. Ladies, you know we do this and that it is of no value. Consciously build your resilience to the challenges that come you way. Find a mentor or colleague who you can bounce ideas and concerns with and to help you find a healthier perspective.

5.  Have a life outside of work. It is never ok to allow work to consume your life. It is not good for your health, it kills the joy of the great work you do and it gets in the way of spending time with those that matter to you most. And ultimately it impacts your productivity, creativity and your leadership abilities.

Each of the superstars who spoke during the conference shared how they had learnt to create boundaries, remaining focused on work while at work and being in the moment once they left work for the day.

So, I am going to say it. I believe that there are NO accidental leaders! Each of the superstar Female leaders who shared their stories had actually created their own success.

They had repeatedly taken chances, been persistent and relentless in their pursuit in what they believed and never let knock backs squish their enthusiasm or confidence. They took on projects, got involved and created networks of advocates and supporters by being genuine, respectful and great at their work.

The quickest way to leadership success is to model the thinking, actions and attitudes of those who have already made it to the panicle. Borrow from them the bits that will work for you and enhance your leadership style, while all along remaining authentic and true to your values.

Our success is never really an accident. We become superstars of our field and leaders who have influence by being brave, striving for excellence and taking the opportunities when they come up.

And as for Faith…. Thank you for sharing your humility, wisdom and boldness.


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