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Knowing what motivates you as a leader is essential to being good at it

I spend a lot of time thinking about what makes a leader a good one or a bad one. I’ve even written a book about how to be a good leader who leads fearlessly.

When I talk to people who work under all different kinds of leaders and in all different industries, the percentage of them who think their leader is not quite up to the job, or weak, or too stupid to be in the position, or even downright evil- is alarming.

I wonder about those leaders. Because in my 20 years’ of experience, I only ever wanted to be a good leader to a strong team who enjoyed coming to work every day.

What motivates those leaders who come across as so ill-suited to their role in their team members’ eyes?

We become leaders through a variety of different routes. Some of us find ourselves suddenly thrust into a leadership position, such as through organisational changes or because we have created something ourselves and by its nature we must lead it. Some people work very hard to develop their skills and to be recognised as a leader, and strive to win those top positions.

When people find themselves suddenly in a leading role they may not have the skill or experience needed to do the job. This is called the Peter Principle- when someone is so good at their current job as, for instance, a bookkeeper or an electrician, that their boss promotes them to manage a team of other bookkeepers or electricians.

Of course, being good at one skill set does not make you automatically capable of managing and leading a team, which takes a very different skill set.

But what I wonder most about are those leaders that do actively strive to reach the top and still make miserable teams. They may have put in lots of work to get the right training. They might get a buzz out of going to work every day. And still they have a knack for making their team members’ working lives wretched. Or they at least don’t garner any respect.

What motivates those leaders? Do they even know?

You can be the type of leader you want, if you start with examining your motivation.

Perhaps if the ‘bad’ leaders gave a bit of thought to why they are there, why they wanted that level of responsibility, they would create a better atmosphere in their teams.

How?

Understanding your motivation drives the decisions and choices you make.

You want to make a happy and productive team? You create a culture of trust, transparency, and respect.

You want to grab all the power you can and drive the biggest bottom line at any cost? Create an atmosphere of fear and control.

Whatever your reason for becoming a leader, it’s worth taking a moment to think about your motivation for being there. And certainly for staying there. Because of all the things leadership is, ‘easy’ is not one of them. You have to want to be there.

So it is worth asking yourself, “Why do I want to be here?”

Understanding the answer to this question will help you become a better leader, and, in time, become the best leader you can be.

If you have worked your way up to being a leader, what inspired you to put in all the hard work?

If you have found yourself an accidental leader, why do you stay on?

Are you in it for yourself, or are you there because you can bring your own experience to help others get better in their roles?

…if your goal as a leader isn’t succession or development of others it becomes about you, not helping people get better. -Scott Asai

Take some time to figure it out. Remember it’s in your power to set a whole culture, tone, and experience for how people in your team will experience and feel about where they spend a third of their lives, or half their waking hours.

It makes all the difference to your team and their experience of their working lives.


My first book, Becoming a Fearless Leader: A simple guide to taking control and building happy, productive, highly-performing teams is out now. You can find access to a free pdf workbook that accompanies it on my website. If you do read my book, I would love to hear your comments.


I write about how I became the founder of a tech startup as a non-techie, over-40 female with no entrepreneurial experience, and all I am learning along the way. You can see more here. If you think this might be helpful for others on their entrepreneurial journey, please recommend and share.