I mentored many individuals in my career who were aspiring to a leadership position in our organization. I would always ask them one question – “Why do you want to be a leader?” The answer to that question can tell you a lot.
I remember a friend who was asked that question by a senior leader. They hadn’t thought through their answer before being asked, and their answer was such that as a result, the leader would not support them for a leadership position moving forward. If you see leadership as a calling, you need to have your answer to the question “Why do you want to be a leader?” ready for whoever may ask you.
There are many reasons why people might want to secure a formal leadership position. (I say “formal” because I firmly believe that you can be a leader no matter what position you hold). Some pursue leadership for the title, position or status. Some pursue leadership for the salary or bonuses available. Some pursue leadership because they feel that they are entitled to it, based on length of service or prior individual contributions. I believe these are all poor reasons to pursue leadership.
I see leadership as a calling. I feel that leadership is one of the things that the Lord has gifted and prepared me for. My objectives in being a leader were to drive results for the organization and to develop people, both those on my teams and those I mentored. In other words, I aimed to make things better, both for the organization and for the people I was blessed to work with and mentor. I think that’s what servant leadership is all about.
Leadership experts John Maxwell and Ken Blanchard believe that the only way to create great relationships and results is through servant leadership. Maxwell states that servant leadership is all about putting other people first. Many leaders are not respected because they tend to put themselves first, not others. Blanchard has written that we have all seen the negative impact of self-serving leaders in every sector of our society. Maxwell offers a solution, indicating that the leader should be there for the people, not the people for the leader. Dave Ramsey states that if there’s one key to servant leadership, it’s pretty simple: put other people first. Cheryl Bachelder, the former CEO of Popeyes, writes that servant leadership simply means service above self.
Does this describe your current leader, or leaders that you have reported to in the past? Perhaps not. A better question may be “Does this describe the leader you want to be?” When someone asks you why you want to be a leader, why not indicate that you:
- Will make a difference.
- Drive strong results.
- Develop people.
- Put other people first.
How about you? If I were to ask you why you want to be a leader, how would you respond?