An “Accidental Leader” denotes an individual who is suddenly put in charge of a team or organization with no advanced training or preparation. Many of us can relate to this term insofar as it communicates the angst and uncertainty of assuming leadership. It falls short, however, in that it fails to recognize the depth of conviction and scale of impact a leader can have, regardless of their path or style.
Becoming a leader may be accidental, but being a leader is not.
In a recent team talk, Jessica Backus, Director of The Art Genome Project and self-proclaimed “Accidental Leader,” shared the unexpected trajectory of her professional development and the five guiding principles that enabled her to embrace the call of leadership.
Jessica’s evolution as a leader—from apprehensive to empowered—emphasizes the special and varied ways in which leaders can emerge in an organization. Initially, Jessica cast herself in sharp contrast to conventional archetypes, such as fearless military generals or inspirational cults of personality. What she came to realize, however, is that not all leaders are forged alike and that stylistic differences don’t indicate undeserved or accidental opportunities. There are countless leadership styles within any organization and, while some individuals may be more prepared than others, an employee who takes ownership of the responsibility and delivers on expectations is, by all accounts, an intentional leader.