During a training program at McKinsey, we were split into groups of 4-5 people and given a task – we had to build paper planes using a kit given to us.
To win, you had to build the most number of planes in the given time.
Naturally, all the groups started in haste. But the task was complicated and needed real teamwork. We all fumbled and tried to coordinate but our team did not do a great job.
After the activity, during the debriefing, the trainers asked, “How many groups chose a leader?”
Turned out, that very few groups did that. And without leadership or direction, we were very inefficient.
So the trainers asked, “Why did you not choose a leader?”
One of us said, “It was a peer group and nobody wants to appear bossy by trying to become a leader.”
That is when the trainer gave an unforgettable advice. He said, “One of you could have just said – I offer to serve the team as a leader if nobody else wants to. But if someone wants to, I would support that person 100%.”
All of us will someday lead other people. We will do well to remember that good leadership is a service you are offering to the team.
And the person who offers a service is a servant. Leadership is not an entitlement to boss over others.