Lucky Girl, Lesson 2: Steer from the Back

Lesson Two

So if Lesson One was to trust myself, then Lesson Two was how to lead a group so that I am getting as much as possible out of an enthusiastic team without exhausting — or martyring — myself.

This is a lesson that I think a lot of women miss. We are normally taught sacrifice over strategy.

As I provided labor and administrative support for Doc’s gun range projects, he provided me with an opportunity to watch a skilled manager recruit and motivate changing bands of volunteers.

The first thing you have to do is separate your sense of self from the results that the group produces. Anything you are attached to, in the sense of you mentally committing to what you can “make” people do, is going to be a source of stress for you.

As the leader, your job is to encourage people to contribute something they want to give, and then channel all those little somethings into a coherent output that the group will be proud of. This means balancing the baseline of work that needs to get done with whatever pet projects or interests drew your volunteers in the first place.

For example, a pistol match requires scorecards, and there is no way around that. You often get volunteers who are really excited about building fancy props, and who find scorecards too mundane to be interesting. This gives you two challenges: (1) rein in the enthusiasm for wasted effort without blowing up their energy, and (2) find someone who either likes scorecards, or wants the approval that you and the group can provide for taking on this task. This balance is what makes leadership a valuable commodity.

Without cool props, no volunteers. Without volunteers, no match. But the energy of a group of people excited by the whole picture of what they’re creating… Even scorecards can become magical.

The secret as I interpret it, is to let the group be wonderful, and steer from behind. If you put some prep in upfront and invest in a little pizza, even the unpopular jobs get done. And once the group has achieved something they’re proud of… it’s that much easier next time.

So now I always try to be the magic element that coheres the plot and makes the group succeed.