Why Do You Want to Be a Leader?

| | General Leadership
Why Do You Want to Be a Leader?

Have you taken the time to get clear for yourself why you want to be a leader? Or are you waiting to get to a particular level or actually have people reporting to you before that question seems relevant?

I’d like you to consider that “Why do you want to lead?” is a question you should be asking yourself early and often in your career if you want to be ready to rise to the occasion as opportunity presents itself.

Of course, I’m making an assumption that you are reading this article because you already know you want to become a leader. Attaining a position of leadership does not by default imply a desire to be a leader. tweet this

Having worked for my first 15 years out of college as a corporate employee, the term leader was usually used based on someone’s position rather than their skills as a leader. For many, the desire to become a leader has historically been more about getting a promotion than a consciously generated reason for why someone wants to be in a position of leading others. After all, promotions are a common way to reward people for doing good work, regardless of whether that good work involves leading others. And having people report to you, i.e., people you are expected to lead, comes along with the territory as you travel up the ladder to success.

Through the years, however, both as an employee and a consultant, I’ve met many people who did not actually want to lead other people, but were promoted to a leadership position simply as a reward for their knowledge and expertise in their field. I’ve also encountered others who wanted to become a better leader so they could be considered for that next promotion, not because they truly wanted to lead others.

So it isn’t surprising when I encounter someone in a leadership position who hasn’t really given much thought to why they want to be a leader. Many haven’t even been asked the question, since a focus on leadership development often does not begin in many companies until someone is in a high enough position to be declared a leader by default.

Wherever you are on your career path in this moment, there are 3 reasons why knowing why you want to lead matters.

1. Your “Why” is the Foundation for Building Trust with Others

While this may seem counter-intuitive, the answer to why you want to lead isn’t about you. It’s about the impact you will have on others. Getting clear about the difference you want to make for others — both the people you lead directly, as well as the difference you want to make where you work and live — helps you to communicate what people can count on from you. This an important foundation for earning the trust of others.

2. Your “Why” Serves as a Source of Inspiration to Become the Best Version of You

Like it or not, once you are declared a leader by virtue of position, people are watching. You can choose who you want to become in the face of being watched more closely, as well as how you will be perceived, or you can let circumstances and your reaction to them drive your performance as a leader and the perception of others. Clarifying why you want to be a leader is the start to leading by design.

3. People are Counting on You to Lead Them

Whether you ended up in a position of leading others being clear about why you want to lead or not, people are counting on you to lead them both by example and as a champion for them and the impact you will make together. They may not have been able to choose whether they report to you, but they do have a choice regarding whether they will follow your lead. The ability to convey why you are leading others is important if you are to consciously influence their choice to follow you.

Do you know why you want to be a leader now?

As you grow, the answer might actually evolve and change. If you haven’t taken the time to answer this question recently (or ever), now is a great time to think about your why!



Image Copyright: Maialisa


Enter A Comment

Lori   |   03 August 2017   |   Reply

My “why” as related to my work is:
“To be a champion for excellent systems engineering for everyone interested in the discipline, so that we can successfully respond to our increasingly complex world.”
If I wanted to simplify, or not make it so work related – I’d just say “To be a champion for excellence.” In my mind, that means encouraging others to always strive to keep learning, growing and improving, to be the best they can be; and leading by example, doing those same things myself.

Susan Mazza   |   03 August 2017   |   Reply

Thanks for sharing your why with us Lori!