Are You a Leader — or Part of the Supporting Cast?

It seems that nowadays, everything and everyone gets classified under neat little headings. Black, white, Hispanic. Democrat or Republican. Pro-this, anti-that.There are those in the forefront creating change, and those in the background.

To be sure, there are other categories, but in the working world, two stand out: leaders and supporters.

There are the leaders, who bring big dreams and big ideas together to making something great happen. They start a company from the ground up, serve as the CEO or chairman of the board, the editor-in-chief, the head honcho, the Big Kahuna. They’re the “idea (wo)man,” the one charging ahead to discover new worlds in science or astronomy.

Then there are the “little people” — the people behind the scenes who make things happen. They’re the secretaries, assistants, paralegals, clerks and copy editors (hi!) who make sure everything moves along the way it should and is in order. They may not come up with the ideas, but they help put them into action. They support the higher-ups.

Is there a wide dichotomy of salary ranges in both cases? You betcha. For sure, an administrative assistant doesn’t make as much as a CEO. The paralegal shadows the lawyer, but without the six-figure salary.

Me? I’m a little of both. It all depends on the need. I can be the go-getter — put me in charge of a project, and I’m on it like a cat on milk. I have no problem being autonomous, making the decisions, handling the issues that crop up and finding solutions. I do enjoy being in charge, to a point.

At the same time, I’m more than happy to work behind the scenes, as long as I feel I’m contributing to a quality final product. A perfect example: When I was in high school, I was a 1st violin (part of the group of violinists who played the main melody parts) in the high school orchestra. Junior year came around, and I was unable to fit orchestra class into my schedule. But I still really wanted to play and contribute to the concerts and other events where we’d perform. The teacher, Mr. Vitkovsky, was more than happy to allow me to come to afterschool practices and perform with the orchestra. But there was a catch. “You’d have to play the 2nd violin parts,” he said, thinking I’d put up a fight because the second violin parts were the countermelodies and harmonies — parts that the underclassmen usually played. But I took it in stride and gladly said I’d do it, because I wanted to contribute. And I knew I was good enough to carry that section, thanks to my extra years of experience.

So although I was cast into a supporting role, I turned it into a leadership opportunity. I felt I would better serve the orchestra by playing with those musicians with less experience.

Sure, I’d like to be a head honcho one day, but it’s not likely. I don’t want to be the one schmoozing with my peers, courting potential business partners, cheered when revenue skyrockets or villainized when it drops. I don’t want to give interviews or presentations. A department head or a manager? Absolutely. As long as I’m confident in my skills, I’m willing to give anything a go. 

READERS: Are you a go-getter, or are you content to be a supporter? Would you change anything if you could? Does personality play a role? I’d love to “hear” your thoughts in the comments section.

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