Why be a leader?

Photo of red paper boat leading the way for blue and green boatsIf you don’t want to be a leader, then don’t.

Seriously. Find some other way to excel in your profession, career, and life.

Leaders who don’t enjoy leading – what with the stress, endless subjective gray areas, and quirky people – aren’t ever going to be good leaders. More to the point, they (not to mention the people on their teams) will be miserable and much less effective and successful than they could be with a different career choice.

If you truly want to be a leader, great.

Now understand why.

What impact do you want to make? How do you want to influence people? What sort of recognition do you want?

If it’s your boss’s acknowledgement that matters most, be careful.

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve talked with two leaders who are fed up and frustrated with their bosses and their companies’ culture. They don’t know each other, and they work for two different organizations in entirely different industries – manufacturing and marketing services.

Despite the differences, they have a lot in common.

They have a similar complaint: unclear strategic direction. (Do I hear you rolling your eyes? Yeah. It’s a common problem.)

Both have tried to help their managers and leaders set direction, use data and facts to guide decisions, and provide clarity on values and objectives. Both have concluded that their efforts are falling on deaf ears.

And now both have turned to their teams to find meaning and inspiration.

That sometimes means protecting their teams from the whims of senior leadership. It definitely means providing opportunities for growth and career development; delegating authority and responsibility where appropriate to help their people stretch; and making sure that their teams feel acknowledged for the quality of their work and their results.

What these two leaders have discovered is that recognition from the people you lead – their appreciation for your efforts on their behalf, and their willingness to take on the challenges you offer them – is the sweetest recognition a leader can receive.