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10.16.12

If it were just about leading, would you still want to be a leader?

Imagine for a moment that you as a leader didn’t have all the perks that seem to accompany positions of leadership—no lease car, no reserved parking space, no special dining rooms, offices, furnishings or refreshments and certainly not the compensation that creates jealousies. Would you still want to be a leader?

What if no one had to think that your way was always the best way? What if you had to ask as much as you told? What if being “in-charge” meant that it was your job to put others first? What if those you led got all the credit? Would you still want to lead?

What if all you got were the intrinsic rewards of leadership—the satisfaction of seeing others grow to their potential, perform to their best ability and knowing that you enabled that to happen, knowing that you were the catalyst, the spark, the steady, guiding hand throughout the process? Would that be enough to motivate you to lead? To deal with the downside of leadership?

Surgeon GeneralLeadership is hard work. It carries with it personal demands and expectations and complexities and ambiguities that most people never imagine when they decide to embark on the leadership journey. Perhaps it should come with a Surgeon General's Warning: May cause headache, nausea, loss of appetite, insomnia, neurosis, anxiety, indecision, depression, and hair loss.

Because of its demands, without a doubt, good leaders should be rewarded. But we need to ask frequently, “What are we in it for?” If we are in it for ourselves or just to make our dreams come true, our gains will go when we go. In our own mind, it can’t be about what we get but what we give. If we’re in it for the rewards, it will skew our thinking and diminish our role as a leader. It will create a culture where everything rests on the leader. And that’s not leadership, that’s self-promotion.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:15 AM
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Well said. But I think leadership is not really a choice. People are drawn to it. Some for the right reason, and some for the wrong reasons. Some like the money. The prestige. Control. But others live life to help others solve problems. They see a wrong, and they try to make it right. Take away everything else (money, trappings, etc.) and you'll still see people drawn to leading - because they can't help themselves. Some folks, when they see a mess, simply pick up a mop. That will never change.

Anthony, I agree, some people are drawn to it and simply fill the role of a leader for all the right reasons as they see the need. And that’s what we should all strive to do. To lead in any context we can because it is the right thing to do. Too often, people are drawn to or want to be “the leader” for what they can get or for the power they will wield. However, the decision to lead, for any reason is a choice we make regardless of our motivation for doing so.

I think that you are right. It is our contribution to evolution that provides the biggest motivation in most cases. That is the thing that will outlast us.

Leadership anyway is a mindset. You either have the mindset or you don't yet, but I think that everyone can become a leader in their own life by choosing to act a certain way and to think a certain way.

Great post, the best leaders are truely selfless

Anthony, yes it is a mindset. You can’t teach people to be leaders but you can teach them the mindset in the same way that you can’t teach people to do the right thing, but you can teach them what the right thing is.

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