A friend of mine posted this question on Facebook, and it is an excellent question. Why do we look to be in positions of leadership? What makes a position of leadership so appealing? There is a rush of adrenaline to think that you either chose or were selected to be in that position of honor and responsibility. When we are the leader of a team, we are in charge. There are several underlying facets to the statement “We are in charge”, and that is what I want to explore a little further. I am not a psychologist, nor will I pretend to be. However, I know my own personality traits that drive me to desire positions of leadership; so I approach this question from that angle.
I would say the biggest obstacle when I am not the leader is trust in whoever is in charge. It may be safe to say that for anyone who has a new manager or boss, trust does not come easily; trust has to be earned. I feel more comfortable approaching problems from a position of earning the trust of others than giving out my trust freely. That is probably because I am aware of my own strengths, weaknesses and knowledge. For that reason, if there is any doubt about who should be guiding a team–if it is appropriate for my skills and talents–I will volunteer. It should be noted, though, that the old adage “To be a good leader, you have to be a good follower” is true. If there is someone else more qualified, better prepared and ready to step up, I gladly defer to his or her expertise. In that case, those of us on the team know how to be excellent support partners and team players, because we understand what that leader is facing.
To be fair, many people do not want a position of leadership. They may go so far as to directly shun such a position. That may be because of the other half of leadership – the responsibility. Some situations are easy, fairly cut and dry with little decision making involved. However, when the stakes are high and money or lives are on the line, leadership takes on a much bigger burden. There is no shame in rejecting that kind of accountability, but bottom line, someone has to do it. In that moment, the ones who strive for leadership will step forward and take the reins. From then on, it becomes a challenge and an adventure to see what the team can achieve.
CEO, The Professional Development Team