WHAT motivates people to lead others; to take on the role of organizational leader, whether in corporate, non-profit, government, military, sports, or a myriad of other organizational settings?
Because no one else can?
I’m sure for most it’s a combination of many factors, and equally sure that reasons vary from leader to leader.
I’m very curious about this, because I believe leadership as we know it is rapidly changing, as the modus operandi of successful organizations evolves away from the command & control model of last century towards individual empowerment and more collaborative business models.
That means that what makes a leader successful is changing, and as a corollary, what motivates people to lead must also be changing.
If you have thoughts on this; if you are in a leadership role; if you’re an observer or thought-leader in the field, I’d like to hear from you.
I’ll have more to write on this in coming weeks, and hopefully will have a more formal survey in place soon. For now I’d like to gather some anecdotal evidence. Can you help? Why do you or the leaders you know choose to lead?
14 comments on “Why lead?”
Here are my views.
There are probably as many answers to this question as there are leaders. Also I think you’re right that it’s likley to be a combination of many factors.
When looking at these factors I think we can categorise them as ‘self-serving’ and ‘serving-others’. The research is suggesting that leaders who are motivated to lead for ‘self-serving’ reasons (e.g. for money, prestige, power, etc) are not likely to be successful long-term, whilst those who chose to lead to ‘serve others’ tend to have more sustainable success.
Why do leaders chose to serve others? Ultimately, this will come back to the fact that it makes them feel good. It probably gives them prupose and meaning to their lives. They enjoy it!
Looking forward to reading other peoples views and your survey.
Thanks so much for taking the time to contribute – really appreciated.
That idea of self-serving versus serving others is something I’ll explore. I want to believe that there’s no conflict between the two, that is, one can serve one’s own values while adding value for others at the same time. In fact, I think… The only way to gain values for one’s self IS by providing value to others. Mmm, good food for thought. Many thanks again and look forward to more interaction.
Michael Paul Jährling
+61 (0) 410 766 366
Great leaders chose to lead because they have a vision they believe in. http://letsgrowleaders.com/2012/12/04/just-in-case-leadership-development/
Great question! I think we choose to lead because we have means, motive, and opportunity. Throughout life, we gradually develop leadership qualities. Then we become inspired to change something. If we get the chance to make that change, then we grasp that leadership role.
In answer to your tweeted question asking why Abraham Lincoln chose to lead, I believe he was driven by an inner desire to leave a mark on his life that his fellow man could remember him for after he was gone (I’m paraphrasing Lincoln here). However, he probably would not have had this opportunity if it weren’t for the issue of slavery. With the United States beginning to rip itself apart in the 1850’s, Lincoln saw this opportunity. He had always hated slavery, but before that time had rarely made mention of it politically. Lincoln saw an opportunity to take a leadership role, ironically, not to abolish slavery but rather to contain it and provide his country with a peaceful resolution to the crisis. However, by the time he was able to attain his official leadership role as president, it was too late for peace. His leadership as slavery peacemaker then transformed into one where he became a war leader and slavery eliminator. Even so, it provided him with an opportunity to make his mark; and he obviously took full advantage of it.
Thank you for the invitation to this discussion. I love reading your site. Keep up the awesome work!
Why do leaders lead? Why do writers write or dancers dance? Because they have to.
Hey Curt, thanks for joining in, and thanks too for the kind words. MJ
Cheers Steve. Your comment resonates with my own experience. MJ
Enjoyed your article, especially this:
You must prepare to be a leader because someday…
Life will bring you a disruption you can’t ignore
You will need to take a stand
Your heart won’t be able to turn away
No one else will care as much as you
Your passion will trump that voice in your head that says, “I am not a leader”
Thanks for responding. Makes me glad that I asked!
Great post! I’ve often wondered the same thing. For me, as a trainer, it’s the chance to inspire and develop others. Sounds corny, I know, but it’s true. Some of my proudest achievements are not mine at all, but my teams’. As individuals, they have gone on to become managers and leaders themselves, and that for me, validates everything I have done as a leader.
I agree. One of the reason’s I’m now writing and teaching is that as an organizational leader the development of others (and seeing their success) was such a rewarding part of the job.
Thanks for commenting.
Different people lead for different reasons. Some lead for the power it gives them, e.g. Hitler, Stalin; some because they take a stand agains what they feel is wrong e.g. Gandhi, Mandela; some because they want to serve, some because of self interest and some because they have a vision. There are as many reason why people want to lead as there are answers why do people follow.
Personally i choose to lead because i want to contribute and i know the contribution will be larger from a leadership position, especially if i can inspire others to reach their full potential.
As a follower, I am much happier to follow people who are serving others than rather than self serving.
I also agree with you that leadership is changing, at all levels, and that we will see new leaders come through with new styles of leadership and definitely with new styles of communication leveraging social media
Many thanks for commenting. Much food for thought so far.
One thing that I’ll be thinking more about and writing on is the apparent dichotomy that a leader can serve others or serve self, not both.
I think leadership (and indeed all human interaction) is about a trade of values (because sharing has to work both ways). To gain value from others you have to give value to others.
Ultimately, in leadership, giving service (adding value) to the people who rely on your leadership is also the best way to serve your own interests.
To put it another way, egocentrically focusing on your own short term gains at the expense of others is not self serving at all, especially in the long run.