Why Do You Become a Leader?

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Photo by the author

Leadership can represent titles, positions and authority. For some that is the purpose of being a leader: Themselves. It is the power trip, and the personal identity that comes from being called a leader. In this author’s view, that is hollow victory, and has no sustainable long term benefit.

Those that don’t seek the recognition of leadership, often are the ones that have the most to offer it. Leadership is not necessarily about solidifying one’s legacy, it’s about leaving others in a better position. If we’re in a position of leadership, what is the purpose of our position there?

Those that see leadership as a position:
1. Seek power over others

2. See the system serving them, not serving the system.

3. Don’t care who is hurt in the process.

4. See people as obstacles rather than opportunities to contribute.

Others…see leadership to:
1. Engage their passion about people and what is produced for others.

2. Developing other leaders in a chosen field.

3. Derive joy from seeing others succeed, and develop. This fuels them.

4. Want to leave a legacy, rather than build one.

The truth is, those that truly lead, do so from the heart and seek to better others. They are humble, and do not seek the spotlight. They don’t necessarily see their efforts as special, but rather a response to the needs before them. Their payoff is seeing others derive benefits.

    How do you think others will view you at retirement?

A few months back, this author had an opportunity to attend and participate in a retirement party for a college mentor who had recently finished three decades in a college department. It was an honor to participate in the celebrations, but very interesting to see how this longtime professor handled talk of his legacy and contributions to the department, that he essentially developed.

Although there were numerous formal honors given, the most profound honor was the significant turnout of decades of alumni to share their best wishes. In his remarks it was evident that he gave no credit to himself, but it was clear from the turnout what impact his leadership had meant to so many others. It was also obvious that the true message was people’s presence at the event. What a message. If Leadership is about how many people you have touched, then that is the true measure and purpose of leadership.

When you consider your style of leadership, do you consider it in terms of making a difference for others, or as a collection of honors? The memory of the honors will ultimately pass, but the difference you make in others can last well beyond your tenure or life.

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