Words of Wisdom for
Leadership, Learning, and Life in
Exactly 99 Words

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99-Word Stories by ,
Creative Learning Director of
The Flirefly Group.
© 2013 Brian Remer
Updated May 2013

Read my new book
Say It Quick!

99's on the 9th

Ideas based on 99-Word Stories that
come to you on the 9th of every month.

May 2013

Read this story aloud or make copies for your group or team members.

The Accidental Leader
Through the corridor, down the stairs, around the corner, and into the copy room, all the way I was just a few paces behind Nancy. The coincidental similarity of our travels through the office caused her to tease, "Are you following me?"

"No," I quipped. "Are you leading me?" We laughed together but it made me think. If people have the same goal and objectives, there is really very little difference between leading and following. The distinctions, the status, the recognition, the responsibility all blur as we all work together.

We can play both roles simultaneously.


You can build upon the theme of this 99-Word Story by using some of the following questions for your own reflection or to spark a discussion within your team or organization.


There are many ways to understand this story as the discussion questions suggest. If you or your group would like to compare or contrast your interpretation with an outside viewpoint, consider this analysis.

Are leaders born or made? More importantly, how are leaders chosen in your organization or team?

Some people rise to a leadership position through outstanding performance. Their skills at design, sales, or finance are recognized and they receive a promotion. Some become leaders through persistence. They demonstrate consistent leadership skills over time and finally receive the title and authority. Others become leaders because they responded to a crisis providing direction and decisiveness. Still other leaders took on their role reluctantly. Responsibilities were thrust upon them when other leaders departed. They lead because no one else would take the job.

There are instances where one person actively seeks a leadership role while another spends just as much energy avoiding that role. In either case, both the wannabes and the not-wannabes may be pursuing the wrong course. The result has negative consequences for the team.

Many of us have met people in a leadership role who wear the mantle uncomfortably. They have the title and responsibility without the skill. As a result, they quickly lose credibility and respect.

Sometimes, a person who thinks of themselves as a follower may actually be a leader. Members of a team may rely upon a well-timed question or a summarizing comment from a colleague in a supporting role. This subtle influence is often discounted because it is so - subtle. In her book, Quiet, Susan Cain describes the value that introverted leaders bring to an organization. (See a review of Quiet in the February 2013 issue of the Firefly News Flash by clicking HERE.)

To summarize just one point from her book, introverts think more carefully than extroverts. Introverts pay attention to more details and they "think before they act, digest information thoroughly, stay on task longer, give up less easily, and work more accurately," Cain writes. (p. 168). This is not to say that we don't, at times, need extroverted people to help us think decisively and act quickly. But Cain maintains that, far too often, the contributions of introverts are marginalized or overwhelmed by the force of extroverts in the room.

In leadership, different situations call for different skills. Extroverted leaders have an advantage when employees are passive because they can use their social skills to connect with people and rally them around a sense of teamwork. On the other hand, introverted leaders are more effective when employees are proactive. Because they are inclined to listen rather than dominate a social situation, introverted leaders are more likely to implement the ideas of team members. This tends to motivate people and create a virtuous cycle of proactivity.

A search of Amazon will return 91,663 books about leadership. Pick one, or several, and start reading. With so many titles, you can't go wrong, especially if you choose from the best of all and fashion your own leadership style.

The 99-Word Story suggests that people don't necessarily need leaders to tell them what to do or how to do it. Instead, they need leaders to inspire a vision, set a course, provide resources, and remove barriers. Whether leaders are born, made, or chosen by accident, they have a symbiotic relationship with their team.

After all, a leader without followers is just a person roaming the halls; but a person roaming the halls may one day become the next leader.


Did you use this 99-Word Story and the discussion questions or interpretation in your work or personal life? If so, about your experience! If you would like help using 99-Word Stories in your organization, please me.

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