By Linda Fisher Thornton
This is an updated version of a post that has been a long-time reader favorite.
What is the ultimate goal of leadership? This question seems simple enough at first, and then begins to get tricky because it can’t be answered in one simple statement.
- Is the goal of leadership to provide direction and model the performance we expect from others?
- Is it to respect and serve?
- Is it to support others and remove obstacles?
- Is it to teach and mentor?
- Is it to help bring out the best in those we lead as we work toward a common purpose?
Of course, leadership is about all of those things and more. So what is its ultimate goal? Here are four very different ways of thinking about the ultimate goal of leadership. Each one is shared with a suggested theme song. As you read, think about how many of these theme songs describe your leadership.
Using the Profit perspective, the goal of leadership is to ensure that the organization makes a profit so that it can continue its work. A theme song for this perspective might be “For the Love of Money” by the O’Jays (theme song for the U.S. version of The Apprentice).
Using the People perspective, the goal of leadership is to bring out the best in people through respect and care, and continual support for their success. A theme song for this perspective might be “R.E.S.P.E.C.T” by Otis Redding, sung by Aretha Franklin.
Using the Service perspective, the goal of leadership is to serve others in ways that uplift lives and communities. A theme song for this perspective might be “Lean on Me” by Bill Withers.
Using the Greater Good perspective, the goal of leadership is making choices that ensure a good life for future generations. The theme song for this perspective might be “We Are the World” by Michael Jackson and Lionel Ritchie.
The question is not “Which one of these perspectives is right?” because they are all important ways of thinking about the goal of leadership. They are part of a bigger view that incorporates many dimensions of leadership responsibility. The question is “How can we honor all of them?”
In my book, 7 Lenses, I explore all of these concepts in a framework of 7 important perspectives on what responsible leadership includes. A 7 Lenses Book Club Discussion Guide is available to help groups discuss what they have learned and how they can apply it for individual and organizational improvement.
Leadership is multidimensional. We need to learn how to see it in multiple dimensions. If anyone tries to tell you that the ultimate goal of leadership is “one thing,” they’re missing the big picture.