Research shows that extraordinary leaders are made, not born. Ultimately it boils down to motivation. How much does a leader want to move their skills from good to great?
Perhaps an even more important question is why. Why do you want to lead?
I recently came across Harvard Business School professor Bill George’s article on Why Leaders Lose Their Way. His observations and advice along with dozens of reader comments provides a thought provoking look at the critical why question:
• Leaders who lose their way are often good people who lose their moral bearings.
• Before moving into leadership we should ask ourselves “what’s the purpose of my leadership?” Finding the answers could take decades.
• The most enduringly effective leadership goes beyond power, prestige, and money to “a deeper desire to serve something greater than oneself.”
• When leaders lose sight of their inner satisfaction they lose their grounding and cut off honest dialogue and feedback.
• Leaders need to “true north” themselves by reframing their leadership toward serving those they lead and making meaningful contributions.
• Leaders often need spouses/partners, mentors, coaches, or others who aren’t impressed by their titles, prestige or wealth to help them stay grounded and avoid losing their authenticity.
This is very consistent with Joseph Campbell’s immense body of research and extensive writing on mythology. His life work focused on the many similarities and consistent patterns found in mythical stories of heroes who’ve inspired and guided countless societies across the ages and around the world. In his PBS TV series of interviews with journalist Bill Moyers captured in The Power of Myth, Campbell states, “if you realize what the real problem is — losing yourself, giving yourself to some higher end, or to another — you realize that this itself is the ultimate trial. When we quit thinking primarily about ourselves and our own self-preservation, we undergo a truly heroic transformation of consciousness.”