The Best (and Worst) Reasons to Be a Leader
Inc.com's contributors write a lot about leadership. These pieces are consistently among the most popular. Small business owners, aspiring entrepreneurs, and even people who just want to climb the corporate ladder all seem to want to know how to do leadership better.
But first ask yourself: Why do you want to be a leader? If you're doing it for the wrong reasons, you'll never inspire people the way you must to really achieve success.
Many would-be leaders are in it for the wrong reasons:
Money is nice, no argument. And many of the highest paid positions come with a leadership role. But if all you want is a bigger paycheck, you're on the wrong track. You'll spend too much time fretting over why your direct reports aren't doing what you want to properly enjoy your wealth. There are a lot of other roles out there--consultants, educators, speakers--where you can use your skills and be well paid without being responsible for what anyone else does. Rake in the green stuff and keep your peace of mind at the same time.
I'm president of a 1,400-member association and I've learned that power is overrated. Power means making the difficult decisions. Power means being the one to determine when employees are fired or laid off. It means disappointing and upsetting people on a regular basis. Sound like fun? It isn't.
Being a leader can come with some nice perks. People tend to be polite to you. You might get the nicer room at the hotel or, depending on your company, the bigger office. But if you're like most good leaders you'll spend little of your time luxuriating in these fringe benefits, and a lot of it worrying about the results you're trying to achieve. It's less fun than it looks.
So what are the right reasons?
A few years ago I was struck by a vision: A banner with the ASJA (American Society of Journalists and Authors) logo across the entrance of the Javits Center in Manhattan, and several thousand people attending the ASJA conference inside. The conference generally draws about 600 to 700 professional editors and writers, and I'm proud of that, but we have a long way to go before we fill the Javits Center. Or have a chapter in every major city, another vision of mine.
If you have a dream of your own that you can't achieve without the help of a lot of people, you'll need leadership skills to get them behind you. Having a mission for your team or organization is the best reason there is for wanting to be a leader.
The best leaders put most of their time and energy into helping other people be more successful, by making connections, giving feedback, and providing the resources they need. Love helping people grow? Leadership is a good fit for you.
If you've started a company or landed in a management position, then you're already in a role where leadership skills are needed for you and your organization to succeed. You have the responsibility of being a leader. You know you want to do it better.
That's the ideal place to start.
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MINDA ZETLIN | Columnist | Co-author, The Geek Gap
Minda Zetlin is a business technology writer and speaker, co-author of The Geek Gap, and president of the American Society of Journalists and Authors.