3 reasons why we lead

There was a time that I refused to lead.. I left my professional accounting career and worked as a consultant, or as a part-time or full-time contractor. In those roles, I worked with conglomerates, SMEs and multinationals, in the oil & gas, insurance, trade union, financial, hotel and retail sectors. From this external position, i had a wonderful vantage point to observe a wide and large cross section of leaders and teams. During those 11 years, I listened to employees and managers share their frustrations about leading or being led, and I realised that I was part of the problem – because I refused to take up the leadership mantle. And so, I determined to return to leadership within an organisation, so that I could develop and experiment with leadership. From my discussions with other leaders, my experiences and my observations I determined that there are three reasons why people decide to lead.

  1. We want to – Leadership offers the unique opportunity, to fulfil our loftier ambitions. When we decide to lead, we determine to move beyond management even while required to coordinate, organise and plan the work of others. These technical aspects of the job become mundane and are no longer enough to satisfy us; we feel the need to provide something more for our team members and to ask more of ourselves. Leadership allowed me frequent occasions to live my personal vision of “enhancing the lifes of people with whom I make contact”. On a daily basis, I was offered the potential to make a difference, to enhance a life, and to be the person whom I envisioned myself to be.  On a daily basis I could do as I wanted, to lead, that is, to harness the intelligence and creativity of the team.
  2. We need to – As I work with organisations, I notice that there is a dearth of leadership as well as an amazing bunch of talented leaders. I also noticed that not all leaders hold leadership roles on the company’s organisational chart. Yet, I see these men and women happily provide leadership to their teams. Yes, I am talking about the oft dreaded ‘informal’ leader. When asked why do they do it, they reply that, “Someone needs to do something,” or “If I do nothing I will be part of the problem” or they cast aspersions on the status quo. These leaders have identified the intangible qualities that are missing in the organisation and they decide, to provide or be what is missing in the system ( in their own way). They lead because they feel or think there is a void and they take responsibility for filling that void. In so doing, they issue a silent challenge to all of us – Lead from where you are, because the organisation needs you to. What better reason is there?
  3. We are placed in a leadership position – A lot of us never thought about leadership until hired or promoted to such a position. We have all seen it – the high performer or a technical expert who protested being placed in a leadership position.  It is easy for us to blame “management” for not listening, but what then is the onus of the new appointee?   Let’s face it, (s)he could have said “No”, or declined the job or resigned or found another job. Instead, (s)he said yes to all that the new job brings – which includes the perks and leadership. Once the promotion has been accepted then he appointee needs to live up to hi/her part of the bargain and be deliberate in his/ber intention to lead

Now dear reader let’s focus the light on you: Your leadership is important. What is the reason for your leadership? What is your new reason for leadership? Drop me a line, I would love to know.

Maxine Attong is the author of two business books – Change or Die – The Business Process Improvement Manual and Lead your Team to Win.  She is a speaker, coach, Organisational Development consultant and of course an accountant.

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