I was approached recently by someone asking if I would be their mentor. I already mentor a small handful of people and I take that responsibility very seriously. So I am selective about who I can invest my time with.
First we need to “click.” If we can’t get along then neither of us will accomplish much. I also always approach mentoring with the knowledge that if the mentee isn’t willing to make changes in their life then I won’t be able to do anything to help them. Improvement and growth require a willingness to change. No one changes anything about themselves until they see a need. That’s one of the best things a mentor can do for someone, help them see a need to change something.
So I asked the person who was looking for a mentor a few questions. I’d bet they are in their early 30’s. They have had a few jobs since college and each new job has come with the opportunity for advancement and increased pay. But in each case the opportunities have not been realized and the person thought a mentor could “give them an edge” when it comes to receiving a promotion.
They said what they wanted was to earn a leadership position. I liked hearing the word “earn” because it told me they knew they would have to work for their new position. Then I asked why they wanted a leadership position and that’s when we went entirely off the rails.
They said they had been taking orders for their entire career and they just figured it was about time they should be giving the orders.
Where do I begin? Well, first off, “their entire career” was around 10 years. I’m not overly impressed with that. But I suppose when that’s a third of your life it seems like a long time. The bigger problem was of course the “giving orders” part.
I asked several more questions. I determined that this person had worked for several bosses but had likely never actually worked with a leader. Their impression of leadership was someone in a position above them telling them what to do and when to do it.
That’s a big problem. Most people in leadership positions lack any type of formal leadership training. So they “lead” the way they have been led.
I asked one final question. I asked, “what are you willing to change about yourself in order to authentically lead the people you are responsible for?” Their answer is what ended our discussion. They said, “as a leader it’s not my job to change, my people need to change to suit me. That’s the kind of leader I want to be.”
I won’t be working with that person. I determined that they didn’t really want to learn. They had an rigid understanding of what leadership meant to them and they didn’t display much interest in Authentic Leadership.
So for anyone interested in moving into a leadership position let me suggest that you first ask yourself “why do I want to lead.” There can be several good answers to that question but one of them must be “so I can help others learn, grow and succeed.”
Authentic Leaders don’t aspire to a leadership position. They aspire to become a person worthy of leading others to their full potential. They don’t hope to hold a position that people will want to follow. They work to become someone that others will want to follow, whether they have a leadership position or not.
If you’re interested in helping others grow then leading people will be very rewarding for you. If you’re only interested in giving orders then I would suggest a career as a short order cook. Then you can yell “order up” all day long and not offend a single person.
Want more of LeadToday? I’m changing things up on my Twitter feed for subscribers. Beginning March 2nd I’ll be publishing two videos each week focusing on an element of Authentic Leadership. I’ll post these videos each Tuesday and Thursday morning. They will be about 10 minutes long so we can get into the topic in a more meaningful way. The investment for subscribers in still only $5 a month. That’s for at least 80 MINUTES of quality video content on leadership a month.
If you’re interested in taking a look then head on over to my Twitter profile page. If you’re not a follower yet hit the follow button. It will change to a subscribe button and once you hit that you’re on your way. You can cancel at any time you’ve decided you have nothing left to learn about leading the people who you count on for your success. 🙂
Here’s the link to my Twitter… https://twitter.com/leadtoday
3 thoughts on “Why Do You Want to Lead?”
So here’s the thing: they don’t need a promotion to be in a leadership position. They can lead from anywhere on the org chart. They lead with their attitude, work ethic, appearance, teamwork, etc.. If they demonstrate exceptional leadership, it will only be a matter of time before someone promotes them to manager. In fact, leaders usually can’t help but be thrust into managerial positions.
I agree but hopefully a true leader won’t be placed in a purely managerial role, they will be placed in a leadership position, there is a world of difference between the two.