Everyone wants to be a leader. But few realize what’s actually required of a man or woman who becomes one.
Leadership isn’t about calling all the shots or being your own boss. It isn’t about the status, respect, prestige, or fame. Sometimes the role comes with those perks, but there’s a cost.
Being a leader means putting yourself last. Every decision you make is for the betterment of your team, your followers, the people you have power over. Their lives are in your hands. Treat them well, put their interests and needs first, and they’ll follow you into hell. But be the “boss” and tell them to serve you, and they’ll tell you to go to hell by yourself.
Being a leader also means risk, responsibility, and uncertainty. No one’s there to tell you what to do or what the right answer is. They can present options, but it’s your call, your decision, your responsibility. The thing is, you’re only human, and you simply don’t know how things will turn out. You can have an educated or experienced guess, but bottom line, you really don’t know — and there’s major consequences for every decision you make, and you have to make them all the time, and they’re not always easy or obvious.
Being a leader means forging your own path. There are no mile markers and pit stops and navigation signs along the way. You’re making your own road. Maybe it’ll work. Maybe it looks similar to other roads other people have taken. But it’s YOUR road, and there will be holes to fill, bridges to build, obstacles to detour around — and most of these you won’t know about until they’re right in front of you. But you — and everyone following you — have to keep going. You have to constantly learn, adapt, compromise, grow, problem-solve, and invent innovative solutions. Or else not only you, but everyone you lead, will fail.
Being a leader often means succeeding — and failing — frequently and sometimes in big ways in front of everyone. Everyone’s eyes are on you. All the time.
Leading means sometimes making tough choices that won’t make everybody happy — and then hearing half your followers complain about it and call you a bad leader.
Everyone “thinks” they always know what’s best. Everyone always “thinks” the answers to tough or big problems are simple. They don’t see. They don’t know. They don’t realize what it’s really like or how everything really works.
When you’re a leader and a plan works, you’re praised as a genius or savior. When a plan fails, you’re an idiot or the devil incarnate. But you’re just human, doing the best you can, trying to navigate a chaotic and uncertain world.
Why are you a leader? Because you’re a rebel and hate being told what to do? Or because you have unique experience, training, perspective, insight, skills, or courage that others lack?
Are you a leader because in your heart you want to help people and improve their lives? Or because you believe you “know what’s best” and want to tell them what to do, while receiving recognition for it?
Are you here to serve or be served? Can you be comfortable with great risks, high stakes that affect more than just you, with no guarantees, no safety nets, and plenty of uncertainty? Can you accept responsibility even when it’s not your fault? Can you spread and share praise, even when you’ve earned it yourself?
When you’re a leader, everyone looks to you for decisions and direction. Do you have a clear vision, an inspiring direction, worth making decisions for?