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Accidental Leadership

Brandi Taylor is the vice president of sales for Better Homes and Gardens Paracle, a real estate firm in Holly Springs, North Carolina. Before embarking on her real estate career, she was in the military and later worked as a research technician investigating chemotherapies for cancer treatment. Below, Brandi explores how her experiences unexpectedly made her realize she’s (gulp) a leader.

I never meant to be here. I didn’t have a grand vision of running a successful team in an aggressively growing company. I didn’t set out to claim leadership. Not exactly.

I was reflecting on this idea and how bizarre it is that I’ve ended up here in the first place… and then it hit me. I think maybe I did set out to be here. I just never knew it.

I’ve been labeling my traits as “chronic volunteering” or “eager to help” for as long as I can remember. In school, I couldn’t stand that period of time when the teacher called for volunteers and the room fell silent. That moment hung in the air so loudly and it was an eternity for me. I was compelled to break the ice, to get things going so others could fall in line. I never minded going first. I still don’t mind, actually. If we can all just get started, great things happen. It became a thing my teachers grew to expect, even rely on me for. They would assign me tasks knowing I would volunteer anyway. It wasn’t about being the best or the favorite — I just wanted to get past the waiting for something to get started.

When I was 18, I joined the Army. Wait… it gets better. I joined the Army and THEN I told my parents. I grew up lower-middle class in a fairly protective family. I was a girl raised by a dad who didn’t know how to, or didn’t care to, raise a “girl.” He just wanted to raise a kid. It afforded me the chance to do things many of my friends were not allowed to do. Social norms were disregarded in my house. I mowed yards and I spent time under cars with my dad.

When I joined the military, I took the opportunity to do something really new. I decided to choose a job I wouldn’t normally be exposed to in “life,” so I trained to be a diesel mechanic... and I was a paratrooper to boot. Why do I share this? Well, turns out I was the only female soldier in my motor pool. I didn’t know that was the case when I signed up, but that is where I found myself. It was just me. I knew even then it was important to not screw it up. I knew I needed to do the best I could to represent women in the military. It was hard — and it made me who I am. I learned so much about what I can handle and how to value strong leaders.

After college and some work in a research setting, I knew I needed a new field to work in. I got my real estate license and began working with my amazing firm. It wasn’t long before I had that moment again — the moment where help was needed and I felt that pull to raise my hand. I guess I find fulfillment in knowing I get to help. It’s a privilege to know my tiny effort helps the collective group move forward. For example, I started checking paperwork. I love details and I’m good at remembering rules. That opportunity grew and grew into leading an office of amazing advisers who are passionate about bettering the real estate industry, growing their business, and building the community we live in.

This is not enough to tell the full story, but it’s enough to say I really never meant to lead. I never thought I would be where I am. I didn’t realize that what I was doing the whole time was developing myself as a leader.

Now that I look back and see it clearly, I understand. I know I never made purposeful leaps forward into leadership. I didn’t plan for it on a vision board. For me, it looks more like that scene in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban with the hippogriff. Not a fan? That's cool — I will paint the picture for you. Harry and all his classmates are outside meeting this magical creature that is devastatingly beautiful and alarmingly dangerous. The teacher wants the kids to have a hands-on moment. All the kids take a step backward... all except for Harry. He’s unaware he was the only one who held his ground, so he must go first.

That’s me. I hold my ground. I go first. I do this with the intention of it becoming easier for others. What I want you to know is that you may have a grand vision to lead, and that is phenomenal. You may fall into it, which is also fantastic. There are so many ways to leadership. No path is wrong, no journey flawed. I am grateful everyday that fate knew my path and held my hand. As long as I keep showing up and choosing the next right thing all will work out.

I lead so others have it easier. But I never set out to. Now I know I have been leading all along and I love it.

Is your journey not quite like Brandi’s? That’s okay! At The Inspiration Lab, we provide teaching and tools for working women interested in leadership — and much more. Find out about joining The Inspi Lab here!


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