Why Do You Want to Lead?

Welcome to The Leadership Student. Lets get right after it! What motivates you to lead? What part of your psyche enjoys the challenge of getting other people all pointed in the same direction to achieve a goal?   Leadership is not an easy undertaking. At some point during your journey you come to realize that you will likely never “know it all.” How could you? Each engagement deals with different people and with different people comes different motivations, different experiences and backgrounds; ultimately, just too many changing variables to ensure an outcome. What you are left with is a toolbox of sorts. In this virtual box are those tools you have gathered on your leadership journey. It is not a stretch to say that the more leadership experiences you encounter, the better chance you will have more tools from which to draw during any given circumstance. It doesn’t mean you will draw on the right skills every time. The challenges of leadership can be daunting. If it were easy, everyone would be a leader. What motivated you to step into the ring?  

When you start a “Leadership Blog” it is easy for some to write you off as assuming an air of superiority or even giving off the impression that you are an “expert.” My reasons were very different. I’m a much better writer than leader during most days of the week. In fact, I consider myself to be a chronologist of sorts. My experiences are deep and varied, but I realized long ago that I would never be much more than a student of leadership. There have been some experts during the course of history; Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Jr, Franklin Roosevelt, to name a few. I am a student of this discipline and have come to believe that experience, study and reflection are the real teachers. I am merely documenting my experiences to encourage conversation and reflection among others.

There is a great quote from President Theodore Roosevelt:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

It is a long quote, but deserves to be remarked in its entirety. It applies to so much in life and I would submit that the discipline of leadership is indeed an arena of sorts. My own motivations are rather simple and were implanted at a very young age. My father, probably like many others, ingrained in me at an early age the idea of stepping forward from the line and assuming the mantle of responsibility. He explained to me, and I came to believe, that developing this “muscle” of decision-making and responsibility; taking on the challenge; would always allow me to stand out from the crowd and make a contribution. Somehow he imbued in me the idea that my decisions were just as valid as the kid/guy/gal standing next to me. “Why not be the leader?” He would ask.

I have seen more than a few folks spend time complaining about their leadership and management in a professional setting. My response to them, almost always, is what are you doing to solve the problem? What’s your plan to assume the mantle of leadership and do things the right way? Surely they don’t expect to generate change by merely speaking ill of those wearing the hat of leadership. Many of the complainers simply brush off these comments, but I have seen the logic revealed in the eyes of a few. At the end of the day you must take your shot.   As the old, yet frivolous adage states, you are either part of the problem or part of the solution.

Your motivations to lead may come from many different sources. Maybe you had it infused at a young age, or maybe you have come to realize that you are a pretty good decision-maker and people seem to follow your lead in the team environment. Maybe you are persuasive and know just the right amount of push and pull to offer when trying to accomplish the near impossible. One thing is for certain. You had better be in the arena for the right reasons. To help; to move the ball forward; to contribute to the bottom line; to accomplish the task at hand; to help people grow into their own version of leaders.   Your reasons don’t have to be entirely altruistic, but if you have a list make sure #1 Accomplish the mission and #2 Take care of your team are at the very top. You may not get it right every time, but if you keep those two things in focus everything tends to work itself out. And so I ask again, What Motivates You to Lead?




One thought on “Why Do You Want to Lead?

  1. MK, this is a very insightful post!
    Like you, my early model of leadership was my Dad. I used to complain about leadership and how things could be improved. I had all these ideas on how to influence change. But, I just never thought about leading. I always thought leadership was not for me. As I grew personally and professionally I realized that I was having a leadership effect on others that I didn’t know I had. I found this out through feedback from both people I was helping and those I looked up to in my personal and professional life.

    My first leadership role at a global consulting firm taught me a lot. I did not apply for the role. When I was first approached about this role I resisted for months. I was searching for the right reasons and motivations for me and I eventually found them. This article affirms that what I did was a valuable exercise. I realized that a leader was not someone I was just working hard to become. I became one because I always wanted to help. I always wanted to influence people to make positive changes. I always wanted to improve things and situations, and while doing so continue to learn new things. These are my fundamental reasons and my motivations. Without these I would not venture to lead. As you’ve articulated, it’s not always a smooth sail, but that’s where the opportunities “to learn new things” come into play. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

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