Default Leadership

Leadership and Authority Because You Know More Than Everyone Else

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

I’ve been a member of my local writing group since it started six years ago. Of all of us who joined the group at that time, only one other remains an active member of the group. A few come and go when they have time but the vast majority got involved in the second half of the group’s tenure. As a result, I have found myself taking on a leadership position more frequently. It got me thinking about how we become leaders at jobs or in organizations.

In this case I’m becoming a leader because I’ve been around longer than most members I have a unique and valuable position. One, I understand the origins of the organization and the culture our leader works to create. Two, I have been writing and publishing books longer than many group members. It gives me experience they don’t have.

Have you ever been in this position?

I often think about how frequently this happens. Taking on a leadership role often feels like a conscious, active choice. Even if nominated to an elected position by someone else, you agree to participate. This type of leadership can often be a passive decision. You’ve taken the job without even realizing it.

For example, when this group started we had a monthly workshop meeting along with weekly check-ins. Over time the Thursday evening meetings felt repetitive and we struggled to get people to show up. We stopped doing them for over a year before there was interest in workshops. We had members who couldn’t make the weekly check-ins and missed interacting with the group. Our leader, who had originally done all the work to schedule these meetings, didn’t have the energy to resume the Thursday meetings. The way the group interacted during this time had changed because of the pandemic. Yet, the interest in some type of instruction, especially about marketing, was in high demand from our newer members.

I took on scheduling these meetings out of irritation (my default response to nearly everything these days). Nobody was stepping up to schedule these meetings, only repeating they wanted to have them. I had access to the technology to schedule virtual meetings, I knew how to manage meetings relatively well, and I had a sense of who had experiences that others would benefit from. It didn’t dawn on my until our leader acknowledged it, I was now the leader of the monthly workshops.

The key to leveraging these opportunities to your benefit is to take something passive and make it active. When you find yourself the default leader, the one who leads because nobody else wants to or can, acknowledge what you’re doing and grow from there. What can you do in that role? It can be to keep doing what you’re already doing or it can be to do more. They key, in my opinion, is to openly set the expectations of what your role is.

There are times when you just need to keep the ship afloat. This was the role I chosen when sitting on a board. The person who wanted to lead couldn’t take on the role for a year. They needed someone, anyone, to be chair until she could take the role. I, having the longest run on the board and free to take the position, agreed to do it for the reason that all I needed to do was the basics of service. After a year, she took over the position. I had done all that was needed and that was exactly what we needed.

Tell me about a time you found yourself in this position? How did you handle it? Did you choose to be a leader or help keep things afloat?

Sara Marks is an author, librarian, and project manager. As a multi-genre, self-publishing author, she has learned the various elements of the publishing experience and is always looking to learn more. She treats each book like a project, setting goals and working step by step to finish the project, all the way from conception of the idea to promoting the book. You can find her at



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Sara Marks

Sara Marks


Sometimes I have a plan, sometimes I fly by the seat of my pants. Curious Unicorn, Librarian, Author, & Knitter.