What Are Your Motivations for Leadership?

Happy boss woman female

What is your motive for leadership?

  1. You want the responsibility for serving others. Do hard things to benefit others.
  2. You want the rewards that leadership brings. It’s good for me and I deserve it.

Patrick Lencioni says, Servant Leadership – is the only reason you should lead.

Not subservient leadership.

Not wobbly boundaries where everyone’s needs are served except yours.

But servant leadership. Being of service and in service to benefit the aims of the organisation.

photo-1459499362902-55a20553e082If you are not aspiring to leadership for the right reason, you will always struggle. I know I did.

It was 2009 and I was at a conference in Glenelg, SA and I was burnt out. I was desperately unhappy. I loved my job. I loved my colleagues. But I had had enough and was struggling emotionally.

On the stage was a great guy, years before Simon Sinek, talking about finding your ‘why’ as a leader.

I am sure 90% of the folk attending thought that what he was talking about was new-age waffle but the universe had put me in that audience and I was listening.

He said, “Don’t confuse your ‘who-ness’ with your ‘what-ness’”. In other words, don’t confuse who you are with what you do.

Your job is not your identity. Your position and qualifications are not your value. He encouraged us to check in with ourselves in practical ways such as reviewing our email signatures (remember this was 2009 when these were new but not fancy!).

Mine looked something like this:

Old School Email Signature for blog-2

What a wanker!

Do you want to guess my motive for leadership? Reward not service! I was attempting to lead by authority, demanding that people notice how important I was. 

Always remember that leadership is a privilege. When you're in a leadership role, your influence may affect the trajectories of peoples entire careers and often their lives .

On the sliding scale of leadership, these are the decisions we make every day.

Am I doing this for them? <-------------------------------------> Am I doing this for me?

photo-1453227588063-bb302b62f50bI had slid off the wrong end - I was doing it for me. And it was making me miserable. It was making my staff miserable too.  I felt like I deserved the minimal perks I got. I felt entitled but I didn’t feel happy.

On the other end of the scale, I witness so many leaders working exceptionally long hours and giving, giving, giving. Servant leadership is NOT saying yes to everything and exhausting yourself by being all things to all people. 

Servant leaders possess a serve-first mindset, they are focused on empowering and uplifting those who work for them. They are serving instead of commanding, showing humility instead of brandishing authority. Their motivation is to enhance the development of their staff members in ways that unlock potential, creativity and sense of purpose.  A coaching approach to leadership IS servant leadership.

What is your motive for leadership (or even management) - to make others shine or to be shiny yourself?

I am curious to know what you think.

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