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The call to lead

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I am a reluctant leader. I realize that others sometimes look at me and label me as a leader, but I prefer to deny it and go into hiding — just do my job, keep my head down and watch others step up to the plate. This isn’t always the wisest action to take; the call to leadership may be custom-made and important to an organization.

Last year I was asked to preside as 2012 president of the International Coach Federation charter chapter for our state after several years as a board member “at large.” I immediately said “no.” I’m a busy person, after all. I need to work and just really don’t have time for such things.

Then I slowed down enough to think about it.

I am a big fan of our blossoming coaching profession; I believe we make a difference in the world. I want to be a part of raising the bar for coaching and shining a light on what we do. I have always enjoyed helping other coaches get their footing in business to be successful. And I wanted to see the work that we’d started as an organization last year through to completion.

Based on additional circumstances, I think it was the perfect time for me to step up. I was (reluctantly at first) called to lead the organization. I’ve always believed in stepping up to the call (of whatever it is). Upon reflection, I felt that this calling was honorable and true to what I believe in and who I am.

You have to sometimes listen very close for the call. Sometimes, it looks like it might be something else — more work, less time to do other things, a pain in the you-know-what. The calling sometimes whispers very softly, so you have to open your ears and heart to hear what it’s asking of you.

Be vigilant. Watch and listen for the call. Your reasons for stepping up may have more to do with the gentle whispers of “right thing at right time” than the money, power or position it could provide.

How will you know? You are called to leadership if the above apply to your situation:

The mission is aligned with your head and heart. You know what matters most to you. If the mission that is whispering to you is aligned with your values, then you might hear it speaking a little louder. Give the call careful consideration and make sure that you also check in with your rational side. Take your time. Is this something that you can truly say your head and your heart are aligned with?

You are the right person at the right time. All the stars are aligned for you to step up at this time. Saying “yes” may be a stretch or a challenge for you (and you like a good challenge, after all). You feel confident and able. You want to make a difference. You just know in your gut that you can do this. It’s your time!

You see a better future. Perhaps you’re a little restless about what you see going on and you want to change it for the better. Put your stamp on it. Create a legacy. Whatever it is, you have a vision for this mission that is compelling, and you know you can articulate it and enroll others with enthusiasm.

After thinking it over, you know it’s the right thing to do. This may be the hard part, but if the other items above seem to flow for you, you’ll know that it’s the right thing to do for the greater good (not just for you). If everything else is pointing in that direction, how can you possibly say “no”?

I don’t always “choose” to lead, and neither should you. But when I do have a choice, it’s a decision is based on the items articulated above. Why not spend some time in quiet reflection when the call to lead whispers to you and make the decision in a thoughtful way?

Mary Jo Asmus is an executive coach and a recovering corporate executive who has spent the past 10 years as president of Aspire Collaborative Services, an executive-coaching firm that manages large-scale corporate-coaching initiatives and coaches leaders to prepare them for bigger and better things.