Why Would Someone Want to be a Leader?

It's a question I find myself asking every now and then. Being a leader always comes with it added responsibility in some form or another. Added responsibility because everyone has things they are responsible for in their life. Whether it is their rent or mortgage, grocery bills, school homework, parenthood responsibilities, job responsibilities, you name it. We all have them in some mix. When a person is a leader, added responsibilities come about. With that added pressures, added stress, more hours most likely needed in order to get things done. So why would someone want to be a leader?

Is it a need to be important? Is it a need to be needed? Is it a need to be loved or desired? Is it a need to make a difference in something or for someone? Is it a need to have a reason for their own existence in the world?

Definitions of Leadership:
  • a person who guides others toward a common goal, showing the way by example, and creating an environment in which other team members feel actively involved in the entire process. A leader is not the boss of the team but, instead, the person that is committed to carrying out the mission of the Venture. Below are some qualities a strong leader may possess.
  • a person who rules or guides or inspires others
  • a guiding or directing head, as of an army, movement, or political group.
  • a person who goes before or with to show the way; conducts or escorts others

Looking back in my life, I've seen myself placed in various roles of leadership. Most of those times I didn't want to be in the leadership role but I knew that if I didn't do something, something I believed needed to be done, would not be done. That's probably one of the strongest reasons a person takes on a leadership role. A person's own beliefs and convictions cause them to see the importance of acting on them when they believe the time to do so is needed.

I don't need to tell anyone who's held a leadership position of any kind that the added pressures that usually find themselves with the role can at times get to them. After all, we are all only human (although some may beg to differ on that...but that is another seperate subject of philosophy). We all have our weaknesses, but not all of us realize them, come to grips with them, or offset their negative impact. When the pressures of leadership causes a person to loose control of their emotions, and get angry or upset, it can derail whatever the person is attempting to do. One of my favorite books on leadership is Donald Phillip's "Lincoln on Leadership", in it the author states a fact that for leaders is sometimes too difficult to accept:

"The plain fact of the matter is that, for any person to successfully lead others, he or she must deal with the reality and be ready to accept the fact that leadership at times can bring out the worst in us. And understanding, as well as coming to grips with the darker side of your personality, is key to dealing with real-life situations."

Contrary to what some may believe, Lincoln had a strong burning drive to achieve whatever goals he set his mind to achieve. It was an almost uncontrollable obsession for him and with that came a natural strong temper. As human beings that are ment to interact with others, leaders must accomplish the paradoxical task of managing their darker side. Lincoln had an interesting way of dealing with his "darker side". What did he do? Whenever Lincoln found himself getting angry or upset at someone, he would write that person a very chiding letter outlining the audacity the other person had in doing whatever it was that upset him. He would lay out everything that was on his mind about that person at the moment within the letter. When he finished the letter, he proceeded to place it in an envelope for mailing. After he sealed the letter, he wrote on the back "Not sent". He felt better for having released his negative feelings, but probably realized that chewing a person out would not serve any real purpose.

Some Paradoxical Words on Leadership

A number of years back, I came across a story that mentioned 10 paradoxical commandments of leadership. It wasn't until years later that I discovered their origin.

Below are the "Paradoxical Commandments of Leadership" written by Kent M. Keith back in 1968 when he was a sophomore in college as part of a booklet (The Silent Revolution: Dynamic Leadership in the Student Council) for high school student leaders.

People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.

Love them anyway.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.

Do good anyway.

If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies.

Succeed anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.

Do good anyway.

Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.

Be honest and frank anyway.

The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.

Think big anyway.

People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.

Fight for a few underdogs anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.

Build anyway.

People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.

Help people anyway.

Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth.

Give the world the best you have anyway.

(and one more)

The world is full of violence, injustice, starvation, disease, and environmental destruction.

Have faith anyway.

(The last one above is from Kent Keith's book "Have Faith Anyway: The Vision of Habakkuk for Our Times")

When I read them, I was really intrigued at how straight forward these "commandments" seemed to be. How powerful they were, and still are, when it came to pointing out the hard obvious trials that anyone who wishes to follow the path of leadership experiences. For me, they are powerful words that today help me remember there is a bigger reason to keep going. A bigger reason to be a good friend, a good brother, a good colleague, a good son, and a good leader. The bigger reason for me may not be the same as yours, but for me it is a reason that drives me none-the-less. Your reason may be a different one from mine, but as long as it drives you, it is a reason for you to have and move towards accomplishing your goals.

I've witnessed many people who've appeared to be great leaders and yet never saw themselves as a leader. At the same time, I've witnessed people who thought of themselves as a leader, but were really anything but (that is only one person's opinion of course ;-) ).

Do you know anyone who you consider to be a good or even great leader? Why do you believe them to be a leader? If you see yourself as wanting to be a leader, what has been your desire for leadership?


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