I recently had a conversation with a talented young leader considering a career change. As he shared nuggets of advice he’d received from his mentors, I listened intently, affirming most of what he’d been told. But then, he shared one particular piece of advice that really struck me. It came in the form of a precautionary question, and went something like; “…are you sure you’ll be okay walking in the shadow of your new boss?” At first, I thought this was a good question for him to consider. After all, this young leader was a shooting star destined to make a huge mark in society. With his talent, the last thing he needed was to be overshadowed or trapped serving some other leader’s needs. It was obvious, he was born to lead, not follow…right?
The truth is, the more I thought about this question the more it bothered me. Not because it was a bad question, but because the way this question was asked points to a dangerous trend in how our culture is conditioning our young leaders to think about the concept of walking in the shadow of another. It seems we’ve led them to believe that the more talent they have, the faster they should be at the top telling others what to do.