Why You Need to Find Your Leadership Why

Key Insights:

  • Most people do not want to become leaders
  • Many leaders never examine why they choose to lead
  • Understanding one’s leadership “why” is critical to success and the ability to inspire others
  • Finding your “why” requires you to look deep inside yourself, which can be challenging, but well worth the effort involved

“Why do you want to be a leader?”

It’s more than just a tricky interview question; it is the inquiry that should exist at the heart of everything you do if you have been called to walk the leadership path.

Leadership is more than just the destination at the top of your career ladder. Yes, it tends to be accompanied by a nice salary, a decent office space and an enhanced social status. But if those aspects are a leader’s “why,” that person is unlikely to last – or operate effectively – in a leadership role.

I think it’s safe to say that we have all worked under leaders whose “whys” have been dubious, at best. Have you ever been led by someone who seems to be driven less by excellence and more by a fat paycheck or swanky corner office? Or have you worked for a leader who seems lost or tends to go through the motions without engaging you or your colleagues? These are leaders who have not examined their leadership “whys.” Or perhaps they have taken some time to understand why they want to lead, but they are in their roles for all the wrong reasons.

You have numerous choices to make as you consider what you want your leadership to look like. You get to decide what kind of leader you will be. You have the opportunity to be the author of your own leadership legacy. The choices you make will determine your ability to lead effectively, inspire people and make a positive impact on your organization. If you want to ensure that you make the right choices for you and the people you care about, you have to start by asking yourself, “Why do I want to lead?” Your leadership “why” is the foundation for every choice you make.

Needless to say, this is serious stuff! Thankfully, every moment represents a new opportunity to check in with yourself, your values and the reasons you followed your calling into leadership. If you haven’t examined your own personal reasons for pursuing a career in leadership, or if you feel your reasons for leading may not be authentic to your values, today is the day you can begin to change.

It all begins with asking yourself, “why?”

Why People Want to Lead

As a leader, you might assume that everyone has the desire to lead. But that is simply not true. In fact, the opposite is true! A few years ago, CareerBuilder surveyed more than 3,500 individuals about their career aspirations. Only 34% of respondents reported that they wanted to take on leadership roles. Just 7% revealed that they wanted to rise to the executive level during the course of their respective careers.

The leadership calling is not for everyone, as it turns out. For most people, leadership just isn’t something that seems rewarding or worthy of pursuit. For these individuals, their purpose can be found outside of leadership, and many of them are able to find success and fulfillment without rising to the top of the corporate mountain.

The key word here is “purpose.” Leaders who know exactly why they want to lead understand the role of purpose in their lives and careers. They aren’t in it for the money, prestige or status. They lead because they recognize the positive impacts they can make by matching their talents to roles in leadership.

Looking at leadership through the lens of purpose allows you to focus on the real “why” behind your calling. But if you don’t see it as a fulfillment of purpose, you may end up leading for all the wrong reasons.

Purposeless leaders get into their roles for a number of misguided reasons, including:

  • A bigger paycheck
  • An increased sense of power or prestige
  • Higher status, inside the organization, as well as within the community
  • A nicer office and other workplace perks
  • An ego boost that is fueled by the ability to give orders to others

Still others get into leadership because it was chosen for them. Or they found themselves in leadership roles after a series of promotions. They have never really examined their leadership “whys,” which almost always leads to struggle.

If you are reading this, I think it’s safe to say you want a higher purpose for your leadership. You want to be authentic, and you recognize the difference between superficial benefits and real purpose. But that might not make it easier for you to discover your true leadership “why.”

Why Do You Want to Lead?

Leadership is about inspiring people and adding value to an organization. But here’s a little secret: People within organizations aren’t looking at what their leaders do so much as they are examining why their leaders operate the way they do. It makes a big difference!

For example, your team members may notice that you are a hard worker who frequently goes above and beyond the call of duty to make good things happen. However, if your purpose is to work hard so you can boost your ego or enhance your status, your people will see right through your efforts. On the other hand, if your purpose is to work hard so you can add value to the organization, inspire others and make work easier for your team, people will be eager to follow you.

Do you want to lead because you feel you deserve to be at the top of the organizational food chain?

Or do you want to lead because it is your purpose to make your organization – and its people – better?

There’s a significant gap between the two scenarios, and it all comes down to finding your true leadership “why.”

Do You Need to Dig Deeper to Find Your Why?

If you have not spent time focusing on your leadership “why,” you’re not alone. Most leaders go through their entire careers without feeling the need to be so introspective. But you are different. You want to be the best leader possible for your organization. That means you probably need to dig a little deeper to find your “why.”

Finding your leadership “why” will require you to get to know yourself and your values. Self awareness is critical; it allows you to peel back the layers of your personality and ambition so you can find what is at the core of your career aspirations. It requires you to question yourself and your values, which can be difficult and uncomfortable, to say the least! But at the end of the process, you will feel much more confident about the reasons for pursuing the path of leadership.

I know this might sound difficult, but trust me: Finding your leadership “why” will unlock your potential in ways that supercharge your career and make you an inspirational force to be reckoned with.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be digging deeper into this topic, so if you are looking for your leadership “why,” stay tuned to this space!

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