Too Many Cooks; Who Should Lead?


I definitely consider myself to be a leader; I enjoy speaking up for a group and over the past year specifically I think I’ve been further refining ways to lead a group due to my design thinking work.

At school I would say most people know this about me. Sometimes I feel like some people even expect me to lead, which arguably has its pros and cons. While I really enjoy leading, I know that part of leading is also to encourage others to lead which can be hard if people just expect you to lead all of the time, or if no one leads and things get frustrating.

At Nerd Camp however (or any new environment), most people haven’t known me more than a couple of days so they can’t really expect anything. (Unless for some reason they see my orange lanyard signifying I’m a 4th yearer and then have some predetermined notion about me because they know I’m older.) I don’t think people particularly see me as a leader quite yet which is just an interesting change for me.

This idea has come up because tomorrow in class we are doing a big class project. Our goal is to crack a complicated code without knowing hardly anything about it. It took last year’s class about 4 hours to crack it, and our instructor and TA keep saying that the hardest part will be for us to productively work together.

Today during evening study which is for an hour after dinner, we kind of stimulated an activity that was suppose to be a review/team building exercise to help us prepare for tomorrow. In my opinion this class session was not very successful and very stressful. To be honest I think part of it was because the structure of the activity just wasn’t going to work out the best which was frustrating for other reasons, but part of it was definitely my class’ lack of team work skills.

People were interrupting each other and arguing and not being clear, and it just wasn’t working well. Plus our TA was still kind of leading the session so personally it didn’t really seem like there was any way for us to try leading ourselves which is part of what bothered me and made things more complicated. Even in the last few minutes we couldn’t even decide on a t-shirt color successfully. (Around this point I went to the front of the class to help lead, but then we had a bunch of people trying to stand at the front which made things not work again.) At the end of class tonight our TA said how he’s really curious about how things will go tomorrow and he is curious if anyone will step up as a leader.

I already have ideas about how to make tomorrow run smoothly and I’ve shared them with various members of the class who also think my system sounds productive, but I wonder if people will actually respect my leadership. Being a leader isn’t just about having ideas on how to do things, the big part of it is communication with your peers and in order for that to run smoothly your peers have to respect and listen to your ideas.

Everyone here is impressively intelligent and can come up with ideas, but that doesn’t mean everyone can lead. Having a room full of people trying to lead is just chaos, and I think tonight was a peek at that chaos and it was not fun nor productive. Some people have to be followers in this situation and it makes me wonder if even in this new environment, will I be a leader? I know I’ll try because I know my personality, I can’t sit back , but will I be the leader we need for this situation? Which begs the question of, “Are there different types of leaders needed for different situations, and what are these types?”

With whatever happens, tomorrow shall be interesting.


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