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Why Do You Want to Be A Leader? by Anita Stadler, PhD

Aug 9th, 2010 | By | Category: Business Coaching

“Why do you want to be a leader?”  I have asked this question to a group of 30 managers seated around tables at a leadership development seminar.  Some are in their first supervisory role while others are more experienced managers.  Again, I ask the silent faces, “Why do you want to be a leader?”  One manager breaks the ice with a joke, “To make more money!”  The group laughs, but they all know that the answer holds some truth.  The answers progress to a more serious level, “Because I know the best way to do the job.” and “Because I want to make a difference in the world”.  The hand of a participant at the back table has been raised and lowered a number of times – almost as though its owner is not sure whether his opinion is worth mentioning.  I know this hand.  It belongs to an experienced manager who has patiently dealt with the day-to-day drama of leading his team.  He says quietly, “It’s not about me. It’s about them.  I just care about these people.”  The air in the room suddenly changes.  It is uncomfortably quiet as the others ponder the depth of the comment.

Creating an Opening for a New Perspective  This is the kind of response I have been waiting for to open up a discussion on a new leadership perspective.  Leadership development should focus not only on what leaders should do but also on who they can be.  Yes, leaders must articulate the vision, set the goals, and make the numbers.  However, if that is all they do, they are sub-optimizing the most potent source of power for change – the energy of their followers.  I am convinced that leadership development programs should focus not only on teaching potential leaders what to do, but also how they can be.  The discovery happens one person at a time, one insight at a time, one question at a time.

Coaching for Leadership Development  As coaches, our role is to be the one who provides the time and place for leaders to pause and reflect, the one who helps them temporarily put aside their ever-expanding “to do” list so they have an opportunity to focus on what it really means to be a leader.  The process involves creating a safe environment that allows them to ask themselves honestly, “Why do I want to be a leader?”  It is a privilege to be present at the moment they realize the potential significance of their influence on the lives of the people they are charged to lead.  Hopefully they will choose a leadership style that will positively impact their followers forever. 

 Servant Leadership  Servant leadership is a perspective that emphasizes that leaders should focus on the needs of their followers.  It was first mentioned in the work of Robert Greenleaf in the 1970’s.  Words like care, nurture, and empathize are freely used to describe what servant leaders do.  Those leadership behaviors come from who the leaders are as individuals, not from a management manual.  What differentiates servant leaders?  In 1998, Larry Spears, the Executive Director of The Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership, identified the following ten characteristics that differentiate servant leaders.  They are:

  1. Listening – willingness to hear from the group in order to make informed decisions
  2. Empathy – accepting each person’s individual needs and uniqueness
  3. Healing – seeking to minister to the deep needs of individuals
  4. Awareness – being aware of oneself and the environment
  5. Persuasion – convincing others through personal power rather than coercion
  6. Conceptualization – seeking great dreams for oneself, the individuals, and the organization
  7. Foresight – making future decisions based on lessons from the past and realities of the present
  8. Stewardship – holding responsibility for the organization with a sense of trust and conviction
  9. Growth – committing to growing individuals because of their intrinsic value beyond their contributions as workers
  10. Community – demonstrating unlimited liability for the group

Servant leadership comes from the desire to serve first, then to lead.  Jesus Christ was an example of a servant leader.  The Gospel of Luke records His conversation with the Disciples in which He told them “the one who is the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the servant.” (Luke 22:26 NASB).  Over two thousand years later, the impact of His earthly ministry influences our culture in more ways than we always acknowledge.  He created followers who became servant leaders themselves.

 Again, “Why?”  Back at the meeting, the group of managers continues to wrestle with the question “Why do you want to be a leader?”  Frankly, answering this question is probably a more difficult task than anything waiting for them back at the office.  It is also probably more important.  It can be a leveraging factor for their businesses if they add the “why” into their leadership style.  By incorporating a servant leadership mindset into their daily interactions with their followers, they can begin to lead in a way that will ultimately benefit their employees, their companies, and the customers they serve.

Dr. Anita Stadler coaches Christian executives in corporations who want to connect their career and their calling through her coaching company Horizon Executive Coaching.  She is also a full-time executive coach and leadership development advisor for a Fortune 100 corporation.  She can be reached at (714) 952-0995 or  For more information, see

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