In the Background? Why That Can Be a Good Thing

Jordan Brown

These days, it seems you have to be the main actor to get the credit.

You have to take the most action in the loudest way possible to get the recognition.

Personally, I think that's wrong.

I think you don't have to take the most action to provide the most benefit.

There are people in the background who do more good than you can possibly imagine.

And there's nothing wrong with being a person like that.

Taking a Background Role

What happens to a society that only values the ones who step out in front? What happens in a world where only the loudest talkers get recognized?

Something bad happens.

The world starts to shrink. And we all miss out on learning about the unsung heroes. The ones in the background. The ones who play a large part in making it all happen.

Take the community organizer. The sign of a good organizer is that no one knows who he or she is. This isn't because the organizer isn't being vocal enough. It's because the best community organizers put others first. They make it so that the community can easily take action. And great organizers don't care if the community gets the credit. Because that's what it's all about. Communities thrive when community members come together to accomplish mutually agreed upon goals.

How to Be Great in the Background

What does this mean for you? Where is the lesson in all of this?

I'm not saying that it's always bad to be the person out in front. Being a strong leader, self-assured and confident in front of a crowd, has its benefits. It's certainly needed at times. What I am saying is that self-assured leaders are only the tip of the iceberg. Most of the work happens in the background. You can be part of the background without feeling bad about it.

You can support a friend while they get ready for a scary medical procedure. You can do the research when they're too frightened to do it. You can help to set up appointments. You can drive your friend to the procedure. And you can be there to process it all after it's all said and done.

Sure, your friend has to be the one to go through the procedure, but what you do can create a strong foundation. You can be the rock your friend leans on.

Or maybe you're worried about your role at your job. You think you need to be stepping out in front more often--that you need to be the one that others look to. That's all fine and dandy, but it's not necessary. Did you realize that, in most cases, you can get more work done by being in the background than you can by being out in front? When you're out in front, everyone sees your every move. And you get judged--boy, do you get judged.

But when you're in the background, you can be crafty. You can carefully work on your plan. You can have conversations edging your plan forward. You can analyze relationships. This is the battle ground of the introvert.

I'm not saying you should be devious. What I'm saying is that you can often have more benefit--and lead a mentally healthier and more resilient life--by staying in the background. You absolutely do not need to be out in front.

Remember this the next time someone tells you that you need to be the one in charge.

Just smile--and know that you can accomplish more than enough working behind the scenes.