Before heading into a long weekend, our family stopped by a local farmers’ market to pick up a few plants to add color to our landscaping.
As we walked through the nursery section, I heard a Mom say to one of her kids, “go ahead in front of the cart and lead the way.” Before she’d even finished, the younger of the two siblings said, “Hey, I wanna be a leader!” After not being heard as much as he liked, he vigorously shared, “I wanna be the leader!”
I couldn’t help but look at the mom and grandmother and chuckle under my breath, “are you sure?” Both laughed, and yet the encounter has stuck with me ever since.
Leadership is oftentimes:
Challenging – At the end of the day, leadership always involves people and often demands navigating a great deal of volume and variety. With everything ultimately resting on the leader, that’s a lot of pressure!
Lonely – Most people haven’t experienced firsthand the burden and responsibility of leadership. Because leaders are responsible for caring for the people AND organization, it can be easy to feel separate and, in turn, lonely!
Criticized – Steve Jobs once said, “If you want to make everyone happy, don’t be a leader, sell ice cream!” There’s a reason that I have the Man in the Arena quote in three places in my office. Being criticized, especially when misunderstood, is the worst. And to the little boy that said to his momma, “I wanna be a leader,” it’s important to know this is part of the deal!
In Patrick Lencioni’s most recent book, The Motive, he speaks to the gap between those who choose to lead because of the rewards and those who choose to lead because of responsibility. He goes on to define “rewards-centered leadership” and “responsibility-centered leadership”:
- Rewards-centered Leadership: the belief that being a leader is the reward for hard work; therefore, the experience of being a leader should be pleasant and enjoyable, free to choose what they work on and avoid anything mundane, unpleasant, or uncomfortable.
- Responsibility-centered Leadership: the belief that being a leader is a responsibility; therefore, the experience of leading should be difficult and challenging (though certainly not without elements of personal gratification).”
So, little guy geared up in a raincoat and ready to lead the family into the perennial section, which do you wanna be?
If you wanna encourage and equip others and take responsibility for accidentally taking the family into the poison ivy section, get on with your bad self! And if you just wanna be out in front with a fancy title on your business card, trust your momma and enjoy the shield of letting your brother lead.
Regardless of where you’re at, today’s a great day to ask ourselves, “am I leading for myself or for others?”. Am I ready for all that comes with it? And the good news is that in the end, if we choose to take responsibility and care for others, the reward of leading is greater than we could ever imagine!!
Cheers to leaning into the responsibility of leading and all that comes with it!