So you want to be a leader?
Of course you do – all of the memes and inspo-porn on the Facewebs tell you that’s the ultimate goal for every human being.
Here’s the thing though:
You don’t have what it takes.
Does that piss you off? Good. Because the truth is the truth, and the divide between wanting something and being something is vast.
If you don’t believe me yet, that’s fine. Accepting your knowledge and skill gaps, and checking your ego is difficult. So let me give you three reasons why you’re not ready to be a leader.
It’s All About You
You have what it takes. You have the strength to lead. You have the knowledge to lead. You have the desire to lead.
You. You. You. You.
There is nothing more worthless than a leader who operates with nothing but their own interests at heart.
Leadership is responsibility. It is the ability to put the self aside and serve with love and respect.
I’m not saying that you have to submit yourself completely to those you lead, of course. But finding the balance takes dedication, humility, and sacrifice. It took the better part of a decade for me to develop the strategies and mindset needed to effectively lead, and it was only made possible when I truly began to focus on and process all of my limitations. ALL of them. No more stories about how I was always “right”. Putting aside the ego and my singular wants.
Leadership. Isn’t. About. You.
Seems obvious, right?
Sure. But without the right kind of mentorship and plan in place, I don’t think you can ever be prepared for just how difficult it is.
I certainly wasn’t ready for many of the challenges, trials, and moments of heartbreak I’ve encountered since starting my business.
What probably hit me hardest though was how much my responsibilities as a leader kept me from focusing on the work I’d founded the business to do. I was planning new courses and running events while simultaneously balancing the books and having serious discussions with employees who weren’t pulling their weight.
It was tough. I burnt out, and years later, I’m still recovering from the stress and fatigue.
Last week, we wrote an article about why passion isn’t a good enough reason to found a business. The same applies to every leadership role. If you’re not prepared for the difficulty of leadership, you’re not ready to lead. I learnt that the hard way so you don’t need to.
You Fetishise Leadership
“I’m gonna start a business and make a billion dollars and buy an island and everyone’s going to follow me on Facebook and hang on every word I say.”
Alright, so maybe your goals are slightly more moderate than that, but your desire for leadership is nevertheless fueled by visions of wealth, glory, luxury, and fame.
I get it. I’ve been there. But while leadership does have its perks, the life of a leader is not as prestigious as some would have you believe.
As my partner Gulliver wrote in one of the songs on the album of entrepreneurial punk songs he did last year,
“I’ve been stressed out of my mind
In the best resorts on Earth
Yeah, this seven-figure lifestyle
Will show you what you’re worth.”
Look, I’m not complaining about my life – it’s super rad. I get to do a lot of really cool things. But like everything in life, those cool things come with a price.
Only 8 Percent of leaders who’ve been in their jobs for over three years consider themselves happy, and that number continues to decline year-on-year.
Much of that has to do with the fetishising of leadership and what it brings, and the inevitable disillusionment that comes with realising it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.
Everyone wants to be a leader, because our culture has shifted to frown upon the followers.
Yet followers matter, and there’s nothing wrong with being one. Consider an animation house like Pixar, a law firm, or a restaurant. Aren’t the staff as valuable the CEO? Actually no – I’d say, in many cases, they’re more valuable. Sure, you need a leader to point the company in the right direction. But without ‘followers’, nothing gets done.
I once spent a year working in one of the biggest promotions companies in Australia – and what I found was: everyone was the head of a department. It was all leadership and no support. This company had a terrible reputation for customer service and production – and that’s simply because everyone was too busy leading.
How many truly great things can actually be accomplished by a single person? So much requires a team.
And, as a leader, when you look down on followers what you’re really ensuring is that no one on the planet wants to be a part of your team … why would they? You’re telling them constantly that they’re useless because they’re not you.
So if you see yourself in the examples above, don’t be ashamed. Leadership isn’t for everyone. It can’t be, nor should it be.
If, for all of this, you are still determined to establish yourself as a leader – good. The reality is, if an article like this can put you off it, then it’s definitely not for you.
Or, if you find yourself unintentionally in a leadership position and you know you need to get better at it (story of my life!):
I’d love to help you.
On December 15th and 16th, I am running a special 8 Percent Leadership course at our HQ in Melbourne.
We’ll be talking about what it takes to step into a leadership role, how to develop sustainable growth strategies so you don’t burn out, and how to position yourself with integrity, as well as much more.
I celebrate your courage, and look forward to talking with you soon.