But I’m Not the Boss!

by Shannon Lee

It seems like I’ve been in the middle all my life, which for a time, was quite annoying! Why can’t I be in charge for once? Why can’t I be the boss?

I was the third of four children in my family, but with a solid 11 years between myself and my older siblings, leadership opportunities took place early in my life.

When it was time to go to bed, I would insist my little sister stayed in our shared bedroom while I secretly negotiated with my older sister to stay up and watch the latest mini-series on NBC. I learned to convince my older sister of the benefits of keeping the younger one in bed while demonstrating the obvious payout to her for allowing me to stay up late. I knew what I wanted and how to tap into my older sister’s objectives in order to do so. This began my career of leading when I wasn’t in charge.

Looking back on my life thus far, I now see this state of ‘leading while in the middle’ as a huge part of my professional existence as well. Unfortunately, I didn’t approach this status with quite the same enthusiasm or excitement as I did when I was a child. While I’ve had numerous jobs, the three primary positions held in my adult life have provided many learning opportunities in the area of leading when I wasn’t the boss. But for much of the time, I didn’t view my position as an opportunity. Instead, I viewed these experiences negatively and with much disdain. This in turn caused all sorts of inner conflict and turmoil that did not serve me well.

My thinking became fixated on all that I COULD NOT accomplish (or so I thought) because I wasn’t the top dog. My self-talk sounded a lot like this: “Well, I can’t achieve X because I’m not the boss and they won’t listen to me anyway. All they do is hold me back. Jerks.” This position essentially gave me the luxury of inaction. As long as it wasn’t within my control to lead, I didn’t have to do anything about it. Not my fault! However, this approach also meant that my frustration grew and my job satisfaction sank.

Like many areas of my work and personal life, I began to explore this thought process because it simply wasn’t working for me. I didn’t like feeling this way all the time and quite honestly, it sucked! The daily grind of dragging my butt into work only to feel dejected, deflated and discouraged was not something I wanted to live with for the rest of my life. This is not what I want for 40-50 hours of my life each week.

And guess what I learned? It didn’t have to be this way.

While I could write several blogs, each focusing on one of the steps it took to get me out of this mindset, I will share some revelations I had along the way for now. This is sort of a quick glimpse at how my thinking changed. Many of these are simply a result of changing the way I viewed specific circumstances related to work. By changing my perspective and thinking, I was able to pull more enjoyment, satisfaction and even inspiration from work.

So here are just a few of my old thoughts and then the new thoughts I created, which in turn, changed the way I began to experience work.


I’d like to add one more thought in closing.  For some of you, the work you do may not align with your values and your ideal life.  This doesn’t mean your work situation has to change for your thinking to change.  In fact, the opposite is true. I may have never considered my current work situation as a viable possibility for my life had I not changed my thinking about work!  I would have remained stuck.

So I challenge you to do the same!  Think about your thoughts.  What thoughts aren’t serving you well?   Can you begin to change those thoughts today to create a more positive, fulfilling and opportunity-filled work environment?  I think you can.

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Shannon Lee is the Associate Director and Relā(NxGen) Coordinator at Relā.  She resides in Lewis Center, Ohio with her husband Kristofer and their three children Jaren (19), Kaylee, (17) and Nia (15).

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