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Recently, someone leaned towards me in a confidential way and said, “You are one of three people on my short list to help organize [the big event]. I hope you’ll say yes.” Instantly, I was flattered to be asked. I like to be thought of as a dependable person. A person who can be counted on to get things done. However, if my years have taught me anything, it’s this: I’m not a Leader. I’m a Cheerleader.

Don’t get me wrong. The world needs BOTH, and there’s no hierarchy. However, these abilities–leader and cheerleader–are different and complementary.

A Leader is someone with confidence and insight, who clearly grasps the scope of a task, defines its action requirements, discerns the right talent, chooses the workers, then directs, motivates, and rewards their efforts.

A Cheerleader is someone with enthusiasm, optimism, energy, sincerity, and a gift of gab, who encourages, teaches, and (at best) sets a good example.

A Leader is a team builder. A Cheerleader is more of a soloist.

My gifts and abilities definitely fall into the Cheerleader category.

Of course, this is just one perspective or, perhaps, my prejudice. Such broad categories and descriptions are extremely limited. Feel free to disagree. However, as a working document for my life, this distinction I finally figured out has saved a lot of frustration for me and for everybody. I hope my hard-won self-awareness was clear to my flattering friend when I said, no, not me. Thanks anyway for the vote of confidence.


  1. thanks for the descriptions and distinctions. makes me wonder what i am in those terms and if that changes throughout your life depending on life place, age, role, etc…

  2. I love your definitions. I definitely see myself as a cheerleader – no leadership talents with this girl. But I have seen you perform admirably in both roles, although I can surely see why you tend towards the cheerleading – you are so good at it!

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