Have you ever gone to a celebration: Wedding. Family Reunion. Celebration of life. Class Reunion… The list is endless, and the person who was responsible for making it happen is sitting all alone in a corner. Face tight. Tear stains marring a beautiful make-up job. Wearing invisible barbed wire that shrieks STAY AWAY FROM ME.
You merely want to say a great job, or excellent turnout or a simple thank you, but back away before you get more than an earful. You ask why the leader is looking so unengaged when it’s clear the event is a success, and every person in attendance is enjoying themselves.
Let me tell you why. There’s an old saying… The best-laid plans of mice and men…
When you’re planning an adventure, there’s usually a crew involved with specific assignments and scopes of authority. But the most coveted position is the leader… Chairman.. President… Head… Large and in charge. And the worst person in the group is the person who does not intend to do any real work but wants the prestige, supposed light and authority of the actual head person in charge. The rest of the team wants to get the job done and often get caught up in the drama between the leader, and the wannabe boss.
Creating a group’s plan and executing the design becomes trickier than the invasion of the body snatchers. As the leader works with the group to implement the project, the wannabe boss is both poking holes in the ideas and enlisting other committee members to join in the confusion. There is always at least one other person willing to cosign foolishness and support their friend in bringing down the group’s leader.
As the details are made public, the pushback comes from people outside the planning group. The leader receives late night phone calls, texts, and emails. Mysterious conversations with people we all know. “I just called to tell you to watch your back. They (the mysterious unnamed they) said you trying to do too much and don’t nobody support you.” To which the leader now has to decide what to do.
Work your plan. Continue to make the celebratory event happen according to the guidelines and vision you co-created with the entire group. Here’s the kicker though. Somehow when the plan coalesces, and the naysayers have proof positive the event is going to happen, two things happen. One: The wannabe leader tries to take credit for the success of the occasion even though he/she has publicly smeared you and attempted to sabotage the event predicting failure at each stage. Two: Other people, whether they’re officially part of the group or standing on the sidelines, want to embellish and add on to the event. We need to do this little extra now that we got the basics taken care of.
And then the celebration occurs. Excitement. Fun. Lovely words of congratulations to the committee for a job well done. And the leader sits alone and dejected, wondering why everything has to be so messy. Why can’t we use our skills and energies in ways that push us forward instead of fighting for the limelight? In the immortal words of Rodney King, “Why can’t we all just get along?”
So, I harken back to my opening line. Don’t let anyone steal your joy. When asked or volunteering to lead a celebration, accept the position with your eyes wide open. Conduct a personal cost-benefit analysis. Is the anticipated outcome worth the amount of actual work you and your team will have to put in? Are you prepared to deal with the stress of managing other adults to achieve a common goal? Are you in a headspace to deal effectively and realistically with the pushback you know is coming? Not all negativity comes from your detractors. Some critique comes from people who want the event to be a success although their vision does not match up with yours.
Once you take on the leadership challenge, set your sights on achieving your desired outcomes. Celebrate each milestone along the way so that you and the group are affirmed. As the event unfolds, rejoice that ninety percent of the people in the room either don’t know or don’t care about the drama leading up to the moment… because they came for a CELEBRATION.
-Joyce A. Brown
Joyce Brown is a motivational speaker and author who uses her creative energy to give voice and meaning to the challenges women face in all walks of life. She grew up in Rockford, Illinois in a household of strong women. She graduated from Bradley University with a B.S. and M.A. Her professional career expanded her reach into Peoria, Illinois; and Battle Creek, Michigan. Joyce obtained a PhD from Western Michigan University.
She is a proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. and has served as a direct services worker, executive director, program director for a major foundation, and an entrepreneur. Joyce has experienced many uplifting moments as a professional and as a dedicated parent and strives to bring those events and lessons to life through her characters in the contemporary fiction novels she pens.