An Important Question

Do you have any desire to become a better leader – whether in your workplace or in your personal life? If your answer is anything other than no, then the relevant question is “how strong is this aspiration for you?”  

For over three decades, I have had the wonderful opportunity of working with literally thousands of people, who have attended leadership development programs. And I have found there are a wide range of different reasons why people attended. Many have openly stated that it was a company requirement. Others have indicated a bit more choice, indicating they were selected to attend, and that particular recognition spurred them onward. Some have said they have heard others talk about how valuable it was, so they wanted to check it out. And others have been hard at work figuring out a way to attend for some time, because they were so committed.

So on a scale from “I have little to no interest about my leadership development” to “my development as a leader is one of my most important priorities,” where do you fall?

Since leadership enjoys a great deal of popularity these days, you may be thinking that this is a trick question. Let’s see, leaders make a difference, people work more productively for leaders, the world needs more leaders… I had better check the box that says I am totally committed or people will think I am an idiot. Although the connections between good leadership and positive results are quite clear, getting better as a leader is still not an imperative for many people. And no, these people are not lazy, good-for-nothings. They just don’t see that course of action as important, at this moment.

Since I am an endless advocate for more and better leadership, I have asked people with a lesser “obsession” to comment. Answers include:

  • Bad timing as I have too much on my plate
  • I am already a doer and I don’t need more work
  • My greatest impact right now is to achieve my current objectives (sales for example)
  • There are natural leaders and I am not one of them
  • Why should I believe that others would ever follow me
  • From what I have seen from all the lousy leaders around here, it must not work

Truth be told, there are a lot of explanations – these and others – and all are very legitimate in the eyes of the beholders.

Admittedly, I have only come across a few who clearly disagreed about the value of leadership. (In their minds they saw tough management as the way things got done, and viewed leadership more like non action oriented pep talks.) However, most I have encountered do agree that leadership does have impact, at least to some degree. But its importance is not enough to trump the urgency of so many other current demands. For those on this side of the continuum, spending time in some kind of development program will mostly be a waste of time. Even if physically present, their minds and energy will be somewhere else. And they may even feel punished, since the time spent going through the motions of leadership development is in reality, taking precious time and effort away from other, more compelling things for them. At the end, they might even concede that it was not so bad, and that they actually learned something of interest. However, the odds that they will make any kind of lasting change are pretty slim.

That said, I would like to extend a challenge to those in this group. For the sake of experimentation, consider the idea that you could become a better leader, and that doing so would have a remarkable impact on your relationships, results and overall fulfillment. Consider that for some small moment in time, you could focus exclusively on yourself – your aspirations and needs, your values and principles, and those areas which you know deep down require some bolstering. Are you not worth that investment? Isn’t your own growth and fulfillment at least as important as the myriad of so called “priorities” you are dealing with at the moment.

Remember that the behavior you exhibit is based on the beliefs that you hold. You will benefit from taking time to step back and examine the real you – what you believe about leadership and your ability to actually make a positive difference for others. I encourage you to take full advantage of these kinds of development opportunities, knowing that the timing will seldom be perfect. If your hesitancy is based on the fact that you are fearful of what you might discover, welcome to the club. So is everyone else. Just be mindful not to let that ego-driven voice in your head try to convince you that development opportunities are for all the “little people who need it,” but not for you. Like untied shoe laces in a foot race, a misguided belief like that will only cause you to fall farther and farther behind.

Stay well and lead on.

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