While touring restaurants in Chicago a few years ago, I met a restaurant manager who was doing a great job and doing it with great joy. It was obvious in everything she did that she was in this job for a reason. I asked her what she enjoyed most about her job and to no surprise she was ready with the answer.
She said, “This is the best job ever. In this job, I get to be a teacher, a parent, a social worker, a priest, a coach. This is a job where you get to touch lives and I love it.”
I wanted to join her team that very day. Her purpose for leadership was crystal clear. And the people who worked for her knew her purpose and were better for it.
“My philosophy of leadership is to surround myself with good people who have ability, judgment and knowledge, but above all, a passion for service.”~ Sonny Perdue
In my personal survey of working people, I am surprised at how few leaders have truly examined their motive for leadership. When you ask, “Why do you lead?” the response is generally a blank stare.
Once the person recovers from the surprise of the question, they usually say something predictable like “I do this to make a living.” Most people spend the majority of their waking hours in the workplace, yet spend not even one hour thinking about why they do what they do.
But interestingly, if you ask the same people ‘what is the motive of the person you work for’ they almost always have an answer to this question.
They say things like, “My boss is ambitious; he is working to get promoted.” Or, “My boss is all about helping others reach their goals.” Or, “My boss loves to sail, and he is working towards buying a big sailboat.” Or, “My boss loves growing the company; he can’t wait to get another restaurant open.”
Simply put, the people who work for you have already figured out your motive, even if you can’t say it in a sentence. They see you every day. Your actions speak louder than your words. Your motive for leadership is easy to see.
If your motive is all about you, they will know, even if you say nothing about it. If your motive is all about helping them succeed, they will know that, from the way you spend your time. You motive is obvious to everyone. Shouldn’t it be obvious and intentional to you?
“A good objective of leadership is to help those who are doing poorly to do well and to help those who are doing well to do even better.”~ Jim Rohn
The purpose of my blog is to convince you to examine the purpose of your leadership. Why do you do what you do? Why does it matter? You need to figure that out. And once you do, you need to live that out in the workplace.
If you struggle to put words to it, ask the people that work with you and for you. What do they see in your daily actions? How would they describe your motive for leadership? Be brave enough to ask, and courageous enough to act upon what you learn.
But don’t miss this important point. Until the purpose of your leadership is about the people you lead, you will be disappointed in the outcomes. No one wants to follow or serve a leader whose purpose is self-focused. The team can smell selfish ambition from 100 miles away.
Your personal ambition can only get you short term commitment, until they find another leader to work for whom genuinely cares about their growth and development. In short, the leaders with the strongest followers and best performance results have figured out that the purpose of leadership is about serving other people’s needs, so that those people want to serve the company well. Service above self.
If that conclusion feels soft or weak to you, think about your favorite boss in your lifetime. I’m betting that person helped you grow and develop. I’m betting that you felt cared about. I’m betting you performed well during their leadership and added value to the enterprise. Why don’t you offer your team the traits that you have valued most in your career?