Why do I hate being the center of attention but find leadership roles feeling natural and comfortable? originally appeared on Quora - the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.
Let's assume your "leadership role" is generally about building a a good team, coaching, training and motivating them, and getting results through them.
Interaction wise, one could execute this team leadership role almost entirely in one-on-one and small group settings. Even with a large organization, one might have small groups of managers who in turn communicate to their part of a hierarchy. Sometimes one would be forced into an all-hands meeting to speak, and only briefly.
In most of the team interactions above, you benefit from individuals who know each other somewhat well, communication is bi-directional, and attention gets passed between individuals. What this all means is you don't need to be the "center of attention" to be an effective leader. In many ways, holding the center of attention might send the wrong signals or be an anti-pattern for team leadership.
So why do you hate being the center of attention? What makes you uncomfortable?
One answer might be that you have a bias towards people who have held the center of attention in your career or in other settings. There's certainly a type of person who seizes the center of attention, portrays themselves as a leader, but doesn't have a lot of substance.
But sometimes you need to be the center of attention. To share a vision or story to a large group, to rally them to the "next big thing". That's a good thing for many leaders and can be a lot more efficient than more intimate settings. You can actually be a more effective leader when you know when and how to engage large groups in a productive way.
In your center of attention scenarios (classes, parties, etc), what's true is you might not know who's around you well. You can't practically build rapport with them quickly in that moment like you would do with your team. The key insight is: when you are called on to engage a large group, few of the team leadership traits above are helpful. This type of group engagement needs different skills, but doesn't necessarily make you a bad leader.
If this matters to you, my advice is go get comfortable speaking or performing in front of others. Some of the greatest leaders are good story tellers and can rapidly build support for their ideas with larger groups of people. They are comfortable with a uni-directional method of communication without being a blowhard.
I've heard Toastmasters is helpful, or consider finding opportunities to speak publicly. Join a local theater group, or find a class on improv, learn an instrument and play for a group. Whatever your approach, getting familiar with the art of performing in front of others will help you build the skills needed for engaging large groups or crowds, and help them rapidly understand your ideas or vision.
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