Today’s prompt: “What is the best compliment you’ve received?”

Someone told me recently that I have good leadership qualities and a strong drive. This comment was significant to me because I don’t consider myself to be a leader figure. I don’t enjoy speaking in front of lots of people, I don’t enjoy being in charge or telling people what to do, and I’m not skilled at mediating conflicts. These are the first things that come to my mind when I think of a leader, but there is more to it than just being bossy.

I will never forget my fifth grade teacher’s end-of-year comment. He described me as a quiet leader who knows when to step up and when to back off. I have always been proud of this because there is nothing more aggravating to me than an overly authoritative person.

In both of my current jobs, I am an assistant. I try to be as helpful as I can to those above me, and I do whatever is necessary to take extraneous tasks off their hands. I wouldn’t think of saying that one of these positions displays leadership because I follow directions and my duties revolve around helping others be more successful. But what happens when I think of something that my boss overlooked? Or when I have a new idea that’s actually helpful to someone else? Or when what I do goes beyond what they asked me for and shows that I care about making a difference in their lives?

I am starting to realize that there are many ways to be a leader, and they don’t all involve running meetings or talking in a loud voice. In fact, I think it’s when we’re just being ourselves, not trying to overstep our limits, that we are the best leaders. Since I am not comfortable with public speaking, that is not a situation where my leadership would show. But since I am considerate and observant of the effects of an action on others, I am a good quiet leader. I am content to sit back and let someone else take the spotlight, pitching in when necessary but letting the credit fall to someone else. I am good at spotting potential problems and picking up the slack if something falls through. But the definition of leadership is different for everyone.

To me, being a leader means getting the job done no matter what it takes. It means being helpful and present and responsible and realistic and and improvising sometimes because we all forget to do things. I’m still learning the best way for me to lead, but now I know that it’s not always the loudest voice who has the best ideas. The one who listens, watches, and waits can be just as effective.