Leadership Is a Choice

by  Shawn Murphy  |  Leadership Development

I recently attended a Rypple webinar led by John Baldoni. In it he said, “Leadership is a choice.” It’s a seemingly obvious conclusion. However, there are layers of meaning to John’s statement that proved to me to be quite compelling.

Too often we work with leaders who never made the choice. They merely act a part but forget to choose the work of leadership. For if they had chosen, they’d realize that leadership isn’t about:

    • needing to be first, or placing themselves at the center of the team;
    • needing to be right to look good or appear in control;
    • needing to be seen; or
    • being overlooked for their hard work.

To choose leadership is to accept the hard work and responsibility of helping others achieve great things while supporting them, guiding them, coaching them to be great.

Choosing leadership is a self-less act predicated on the belief that:

    • people do want to do good work;
    • people want to contribute their talents;
    • people can be trusted to do the right things;
    • people want to believe in a purpose at work bigger than themselves,and
    • people want to have a meaningful life.

Leaders can help make all the above happen only when they chose to lead for others and not for their self-advancing needs.

The irony in all this is that leaders who truly make the choice grow and learn as much as those who are led.

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What People Are Saying

Jon M  |  07 Nov 2011  |  Reply

Shawn, Excellent points! It is definitely time for leaders across various industries and our government to take this to heart and make the leadership choice that lifts people up and moves the greater good forward. There is an undercurrent bringing this mindset to the forefront, and you are one of them leading the charge. It is not about being self-centered, but mission-centered, people-centered, and meaning-centered. Thanks! Jon

Shawn Murphy  |  07 Nov 2011  |  Reply

It’s encouraging to see more and more people talking about what’s important for the good of all rather making one’s pie larger. We’re seeing it in proposed new economic measures. We’re seeing it in the proliferation of passion in our work. We’re seeing it in communities like Lead Change. I’m happy to be a voice in that chorus. You, too, are one that echoes this message quite eloquently.


Susan Mazza  |  07 Nov 2011  |  Reply


One challenge to this that I see in organizations is that too many people rose through the ranks without being expected to lead. At some point up the ladder someone declared “you are a leader”. In other cases they had the position long before leadership because an expectation of the job. There are also a lot of people who end up in positions requiring leadership today who got there based on their technical competence and knowledge alone. Promotion is still often the only way to increase income and prestige in so many organizations.. It is a challenge to compel the reluctant leader to choose to lead. I wonder, is this a generational thing that will be “corrected” as the next generation rises through the ranks or will this phenomena continue to persist until we figure out better ways to design organizations?

Shawn Murphy  |  07 Nov 2011  |  Reply

We can always count on you to pose thought provoking questions. The reluctant leader could be generational. I think high degree of ambiguity and need to “show your value” causes reluctance, too. This would be interesting to explore further.

James  |  08 Nov 2011  |  Reply

Great post. I agree a lot of leaders do not treat leadership as a profession, rather a right or title. Those that treat it as a profession, understand that it takes hard work and a constant stream of learning are those that make the most impact on those they lead. Good stuff, I followed you from Twitter to your blog.


Shawn Murphy  |  08 Nov 2011  |  Reply

There is a shift underway where more managers are recognizing leadership as a right doesn’t yield the needed results for the company, team, and individuals. I’d like to see the shift happen a little faster. But then I’ve not always been as patient as may be needed.

Glad to connect with you here. This community is made up of phenomenal people who are dedicated to helping leaders lead in the 21st century.

Be well,

James  |  08 Nov 2011  |  Reply

I agree it needs to happen at a much faster pace. But you guys here are starting that. I am glad I came across the site. I am bookmarking it.


Shawn Murphy  |  08 Nov 2011  |  Reply

We’ll see you soon, James.

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