Anyone who takes on a position of responsibility as a leader will feel pretty self-important at first. After all, you have been chosen, or you stepped in when no one else did. It’s a big ego boost to have a title, to have people follow your directions. That’s a pretty heady feeling isn’t it… all that power?
Power scratches an itch, and some leaders never quite lose their addiction to power. We can even convince ourselves that we are something special, someone who is deserving of respect and recognition. A lot of times we don’t like to be challenged or questioned – after all we are the leader, right? We know better!
Hopefully somewhere along the way we learn being a leader isn’t about power at all. It’s not nearly as exciting and ego-boosting, it’s really about responsibility.
We also discover that responsibility isn’t anywhere near as fun as power. Maybe you’ve heard it said; “it’s lonely at the top”.
Giving orders is kind of fun! Being responsible for other people? That’s serious business.
Leaders can become targets for other people’s fears and uncertainties, their followers will say and do things that hurt their feelings. When that happens we are tempted to use the power of leadership to strike back at them. After all, a leader has to be strong, right? I can tell you from experience; using the power of leadership as a weapon never goes very well. You may feel vindicated in the short term, but the long term results are always bad.
We realize a leader’s decisions actually effect people, and it’s possible to get things very, very wrong, it really is serious business. That realization makes a lot of us back down and hide out, we don’t want to make decisions or give directions anymore because we are afraid we’ll be wrong. If leaders make bad decisions or give bad directions everybody knows, and that’s just plain embarrassing.
Every good leader I have known reaches a point where they have serious doubts, when their self-confidence fades to the point they just want to hide from their responsibilities. No responsible leader, no matter how young or old, quite gets over the nagging feeling that someday everyone will see their fears and uncertainties, and they will be unmasked as a fraud.
Every responsible leader has felt like this at one time or another, you aren’t that special.
If you hang in there, though, what you will realize is that leadership isn’t about power or getting special treatment, it isn’t about being appreciated; it’s about service and devotion to the welfare of others. Once you realize this you will be happier, and a lot more effective as a leader.
You’ll discover much of the time leaders lay aside their own interests, recognition, growth, and personal fulfillment for a greater reward; watching the ones they serve grow, seeing them happy and fulfilled, seeing their talents and efforts recognized.
Do leaders sacrifice some things? Sure! It may look like they give up a lot, but the true reward is so much bigger and better than the things we lay aside.
Stick with it, you’ll see.