By Kelly Carr
I was a huge fan of the TV show The Office. One character that weekly made me laugh was Dwight, the assistant (to the) regional manager. Dwight had an intense personality in his subordinate role, adding humor to the plotline. Though he wasn’t in charge, he was fiercely loyal to the boss and took immediate action when tasked with a job.
Whenever I’m on a committee where I lack the knowledge to be in charge, I often reference Dwight: “I don’t know enough to lead, but I’ll be your Dwight—you make a decision, give me tasks to do, and I’ll work my hardest for you.”
Thrive in Your Role
For some people it’s easy to accept a secondary position. They may find comfort there because it’s less pressure and less blame if things aren’t perfect.
But others feel slighted when they aren’t chosen to take the lead. They have vision and ideas and want to command those into action.
Which describes you?
No matter if we enjoy playing second fiddle or not, there are times when that’s what we’re asked to do. Secondary players are needed. How would anything get done if there were all leaders but no followers, all queen bees but no workers?
Let’s consider how you can thrive when you’re in a role that supports a leader:
• Work hard. You will make the team better and your leader stronger. It’s frustrating to lead people who don’t care. If the task doesn’t interest you, find new motivation: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters” (Colossians 3:23).
• Cooperate with other secondary workers. You likely aren’t the only one following a particular leader. Figure out how you can work well with those who are subordinate with you.
• Find solutions—don’t just grumble. When you follow others, it’s easy to dissect all the things they’re doing wrong. You have the perfect vantage point. But don’t just complain about what leaders aren’t doing—be a part of the solution. See if your work can help the leader to lead better. Or approach the leader in a humble manner with your suggestions.
Find Someone to Encourage
In your role as a team player, you hopefully learn things about yourself and others. One thing you’ll likely see is that we all enjoy encouragement. But at times we don’t feel noticed. While we are waiting around for some recognition, let’s find ways to recognize others. Surely someone around us is feeling the same way.
Recently I was feeling self-pity. I did a lot of volunteer work that I wondered if anyone truly appreciated. But then I looked at my friend who was volunteering with me. She often thinks of others, asking how they are, surprising people with small gifts, offering rides and meals when people are in need. Yet did she get recognized for all she was doing? No, and she was doing way more than I was! How could I feel sorry for myself?
By not encouraging my friend, I was doing the thing I accused others of doing to me—how humbling. So I put myself in her shoes. How did she encourage others? Then I set about trying the same thing on her behalf. While working on ways to thank her, I thought less about my own desire for recognition.
No one leads or follows perfectly. But we can do our part as team players. We will appreciate these actions in others when it’s our turn to be in charge.