Jan
19

Aspire to Lead? Check your aspirations.

by  Monica Diaz  |  Leadership Development

If you aspire to be a leader, what would that look like for you? Do you imagine it? Do you strive for it every day?

Of course, you might be attracted to the LeadChange group because you already have a leadership responsibility or because the very thought of leadership is enticing to you. To me, leadership is a deep, personal choice that will require very much of the person making it. So it should not be taken lightly, but rather, grounded in who you are and what you want out of life. To lead well and with character will be a huge undertaking. It will also be very rewarding if you do it right.

Leadership can take so many different forms. And so it should. Because true, character-based leadership takes into account not only who the followership is and where they might  want to be led, but also the leader’s own heart. I find the most compelling leaders are those who are brave enough to follow their own heart and passion in deciding where they are willing to stand up and lead.

So, following my aspirations theory, let’s look into the three main aspirations that drive human beings. Reminding ourselves of them will help us to be better leaders. If you want to get in touch with your own aspirations and your heart’s desire make sure you cover these bases in your self-reflection.

Transcendence.

What do you want to be known for? Leading is about being bigger than yourself. About creating lasting, relevant things in the world. It is a path to a deeply significant life, because it creates the possibility to influence the lives of others. Through leadership, you can encounter and engage with those who can take your work a step further, share it, make it blossom, keep it going. That’s where mentoring and coaching people becomes a win-win situation. If you are leading with only the present moment in mind, your leadership will be short-lived or become irrelevant as time goes on. Think always of the impact of your work in those that follow, in the possibilities it creates and in the lasting effect of it.

Wisdom.

In leading, make sure you pick up some understanding on the way. True leaders will get a buzz from learning new things and listening to how others’ process their vision. You can correct course, learn and lead yourself on to explore uncharted territory, gain insights and become curious about what’s behind the progress you are making or even the mistakes you are sometimes plagued with. Every step of the way holds nuggets of wisdom to be had by those who become aware of them. Leaders strive to be the ones that are aware and make the best use of wisdom gained.  What wisdom are YOU after? Where are you looking? How are you looking? Will you know it when you find it? Being IN these questions makes a world of a difference, and sharing them with others expands their effectiveness.

Happiness.

Leading others to your own heart’s desire should really be a joyful experience. And yes, if you are not enjoying it, there IS something wrong with your leadership. Even if it is doing some good in the world, you could definitely do more if you were connecting with your own bliss. That doesn’t mean that it won’t entail hard work, chosing to do some things over others, collaborating in unfamiliar ways or taking on projects you wouldn’t have considered if you didn’t have the end in mind. Happiness goes beyond pleasure into being truly satisfied with life. Are you satisfied with where you are leading yourself as you lead others onward? The answer should always be YES. Whenever it is not, there is a leader’s course to be corrected. Passion will ensue.

I wish you well on your own personal path to leadership. May you be well accompanied, well mentored, well advised. And may you find your way to your aspirations. Please join the conversation below so we can all deepen our thoughts on the matter.

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What People Are Saying

William Powell  |  19 Jan 2011  |  Reply

Great points Monica! I think aspiration is infinitely more important than motivation. Why people want to be leaders is just as important as what they do as leaders. Thanks so much for sharing such an insightful post!

Monica Diaz  |  19 Jan 2011  |  Reply

Yes, William! And we do often overlook it. Especially when we have “fallen into” a position of influence, we do not realize how we are leading (or not) and why.

Brian W. Kenney  |  19 Jan 2011  |  Reply

Monica, thanks for the insightful post. I think you’ve hit the mark here.

In my experience there are those that aspire to leadership for the reasons you listed above. They want to connect with others and create something- bigger than themselves- that serves a deeply meaningful purpose.

There are also those whose aspirations trace their roots to ambition (naked or otherwise) and this, I believe, it also where the potential for poor leadership is most prevalent. Instead of connecting & creating for a cause these types seek to command and control for their career or some other self-centric goal.

The most effective leaders I’ve ever encountered in the military and civilians worlds have been those who were “called” to it (via nobel aspiration) or recognized the moment when their leadership was needed. They assumed the mantle of leadership without hesitation and with a deep conviction that the cause was bigger than themselves.

@emergentinsight

Monica Diaz  |  20 Jan 2011  |  Reply

Thanks for your comment, Brian. There are some people that have influence over others or assigned power for the reasons you mention. Ambition like you describe is a real desire for transcendence gone wild, when it is not tempered by aspirations to wisdom and happiness. It is self-defeating, of course, in the end, but does a lot of damage while it is going on. And it is not really leadership, but mostly shows as abuse of power or senseless exercise of it. And I loved the way you described that conviction. It is a thing of beauty to witness it.

Chad Balthrop  |  21 Jan 2011  |  Reply

Some of the most effective leaders I know have no aspirations to lead at all. They don’t think of themselves as leaders, they’ve not pursued a position nor have the attempted to exert influence over a group of people. Instead they’ve seen a need, seen that they have the ability to meet that need and considered it their duty to step up and do so.

Many in the WWII generation fit this description. So many of them weren’t looking to lead, they weren’t looking to be heroes. They simply saw something that had to be confronted and saw that they were the ones who had to do the confronting.

May we all aspire to lead in this way – not simply for glory and gain, but for the good of others, not for position or power, but because there is a significant task to be done and we are the generation to do it.

Monica Diaz  |  21 Jan 2011  |  Reply

Yes! Exactly, Chad! There is no better, truer way to lead than to be in synch with others. Actually there is no way to transcendence, wisdom and happiness that I know of that will get you there without serving your fellow humans, your community, the world. Thanks for your thoughts here.

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