Throughout our schooling and within self-help and professional books, we are consistently – constantly – urged to take the lead. We are taught to be leaders in our workplace and in our personal lives, in everything we do. While this might feel empowering, the fact is that this is not always feasible. Indeed, if everyone was always playing a leading role, nothing would ever get done. It would be chaos!
Knowing how to play a supporting role is vital to being a team player and functioning within a society. It may not be as glamorous as being a leader in our culture, but it is equally important in completing tasks and projects. So how can you be a good supporter?
The Importance of Supporting Actors
Something to remember is that leaders are, necessarily, the few. Consider an ancient army: If everyone was trying to give orders rather than anyone taking orders, the army would spend so much time fighting each other that the opposing forces would defeat them with ease. Accomplishing any great task requires a group effort. A team must include diverse roles, people who fulfill different functions that fit together to drive them forward.
Why are supporting roles specifically so important? The fact is that most of the work is actually completed by the supporting actors. Leaders offer vision and directives, but the supporting actors are the ones actually doing what it takes to move the project to completion. Supporting actors bring the leaders’ ideas to life, and, without them, companies would be left floundering.
How to Play a Supporting Role
Being a supporting actor is not the same as being a mindless drone. Instead, when playing a supporting role, it is important that you stay thoughtful and critical to help the leaders fine-tune their ideas. When completing your directed tasks, you are finding the best, most efficient ways to move things forward. You are also responsible for notifying the leaders when something is going sideways.
On the flip side, supporting actors have to accept that they aren’t going to agree with every directive. When you try to help the leaders refine their visions, they won’t always agree with you. At this point, it is your role as a supporting actor to carry out their instructions. This can be difficult for certain personalities, but it is an important skill to acquire. You’ll likely learn something from the leaders’ methods.
Regardless of which role you’re in now, know that you won’t always be a supporting actor or a leader. Roles change from day to day and project to project, and it is important that you know how to play both parts. Be an empowering leader, but also be an engaged, helpful supporting player. This will demonstrate your diverse skills in working within a team and make you more valuable to the company. You can wear many hats and wear them well.
Amanda Whitbeck is Vice President of Operations at Petite2Queen. Since earning her master’s degree in Global Entertainment & Music Business from Berklee College of Music, Amanda has played key roles facilitating growth at start-ups. She’s also worked in diverse sectors of the music industry, from live events promotion to entertainment journalism. She brings her expertise in music business, writing, and website development to Petite2Queen.