"I have a unique set of skills which I have acquired over many years..." Liam Neeson in Taken

I am an independent consultant. Come June I'll have been a consultant for 12 years. Most people who try to work for themselves don't make it to 3 years, let alone 12, and even though all of those years haven't been spectacular, I'm still here.

Gloomy hard at work
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In every situation I've undertaken I've either been in a leadership position or in an independent position where I've had some authority. I haven't been a worker, if you will, since 1995, and in the last 30 years I've only been a worker for 5 of them.

Thus, it's easy to get into a mindset that I could be above certain things here and there. I see it happen with other people all the time, where they get to a certain level and believe that allows them to behave in ways that aren't conducive to even being a nice person, let alone missing opportunities that might come their way that are somewhat different than what they're used to.

It's that kind of mindset I had to overcome recently. I'm presently working out of town on a short term project where, because I have some of those unique skills that were alluded to above, I get to step into a spot where I don't have to be the one making decisions or the one saving the world. Instead, I get to apply my particular set of skills to a job that a few other people are also doing in a role helping a hospital department get its bearings back as they've been short handed for awhile.

It's a gig that I almost turned down because of that other word I mentioned, entitlement. Stepping into a role that I'd never even heard of, not being in charge, not being responsible for anything except showing up and helping out... was I above this? Just who did I think I was anyway? After all, the pay is pretty good (very good) for the work I'm doing, thanks to those unique skills again.

It's a much different environment than one I went into 9 years ago when two hospitals were struggling with issues and someone gave me some papers to do some data entry. And I refused to do it, saying I wasn't being paid the amount of money I was getting to do data entry work. I was ready to go home but the true powers that be agreed with me and let me do what needed to be done, and man, there was a lot to be done.

I've stated often that something true leaders need to figure out is when to step in and lend a helping hand. Whereas most of the time leaders aren't supposed to be consistent workers, in the sense that they should spend more time leading than doing the same work as everyone else, sometimes that extra hand is crucial in getting things done.

As I thought back on my previous life, before I was a consultant but was in leadership positions, because of those unique set of skills I was able to sit down every once in awhile and send out some claims, register some patients, post some payment vouchers, even make some collection calls when my departments and employees needed some help because something else had gotten in the way of things running well. At those times I didn't sit there thinking "I'm management, so that's not my job." I thought "We need to get the work done, I know how to help and that's what I'm going to do."

How do you view the work you do if you're in a leadership position? Are you capable and willing to sit down and help when it's needed, or do you feel you're above that type of thing? I'm glad I decided I wasn't because I'm in a city I've never been to before, staying in a top class hotel, and getting paid nicely not to have any real stress for a couple of months. I don't want to do this on a consistent basis, but right now it's feeling like a nice break from the norm.