This post is going to get straight to the point. Do you want to be a leader?
Are you sure?
The more I think about leadership, the more I think it comes down to one choice. This choice decides everything. It is the difference between being an actual leader, or a person others follow, and just someone with a title.
The choice is between two forces that cannot coexist. One always wins out. One always takes precedence.
The choice is simply this: Whose success do you care more about, yours or others?
Admittedly, this is one of those questions that you have probably heard a thousand times. So, it has probably lost its power. You know the right answer, but do your actions live it out?
Take one minute and ask yourself this question again. Whose success matters more?
If you are in any kind of “leadership” position in your organization, the chances are that you are, or were, a high performer. While this is not always the case, the majority of companies tend to promote high performers to positions of authority. If business was the game of basketball, the high performer would be the leading scorer on the team.
Leadership, however, is not about “scoring points.” In fact, in light of the basketball analogy, it can be compared to a position change. Instead of being a “scorer,” you now are a point guard. This means that your objective is no longer to score points, but to set teammates up to do the scoring. You are now a passer, not a shooter!
Leadership is the art of setting others up for success. Similar to how a point guard distributes the basketball to their teammates, a leader gets everyone involved and helps them along the way. Modern basketball distinctions aside (where point guards are scoring more frequently), leaders maintain an “others first” mentality and this is what makes them followable. The success of others is more important than their own.
This distinction is hard to accept. It takes someone who is secure in themselves to go from scoring the game’s most important points, to making the game’s most important passes.
This is why I am asking you to ask yourself whether or not you really want to lead. To be sure, organizations need good “shooters,” and good “passers.” They are just different roles, so we should be clear on which one we want to play. Then, if we choose to lead, we should excel in passing.
Admittedly, I have struggled with this at times. I would be remiss not to confess that “shooting” feels good, and certainly soothes the ego when the shot goes in.
But, I am also reminded of the ultimate servant leader, who once said, “if anyone wants to be first, they must be the very last, and servant of all” (Mark 9:35).
The choice is to be last, so others can be first.
This is what leading others means in reality.