Why Do People Lead?

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Have you ever thought about why people lead? If you could look into the window of their motivations, what would you discover? I have noticed that people want to be in positions of leadership for very different reasons. Some of those reasons benefit them, and some benefit others.

Below is a starter list of motives that answer the question, “Why do people lead?” As you read the list, consider this question: Which motives reflect the highest levels of human development? 

Unethical Motives

“I Want Access to Money and Power for Personal Gain”

“I Want Employees To Do The Work While I Pursue Other Interests”

“I Want to Sabotage Others to Make Myself Look Good”

“I Want to Treat People Like Pawns in a Game, Keeping Them Guessing”

“I Want to Control Information To Cover Up Ethical Problems”

Self-Focused Motives

“I Want Power”

“I Want Control”

“I Want Visibility”

“I Want Decision-Making Authority”

“I Want Recognition”

“I Want a High Level Position So I Can Make a Lot of Money”

Other-Focused Motives

“I Want to Set a Good Example For Others To Follow”

“I Want to Build a Cohesive Team”

“I Want to Help Others Succeed”

Growth and Learning Motives

“I Want Responsibility”

“I Want to Bring Out the Best in Myself – To Stretch Myself and Learn How to Lead”

“I Want to Help Others Stretch Themselves and Learn”

“I Want to Find Out How Much We Can Accomplish When We Work Together”

Service Motives

“I Want to Serve Others”

“I Want to Help Others Serve Their Constituents”

“I Want to Leave Things Better Than I Found Them”

“I Want to Be in Service in the Community”

Societal Motives

“I Want to Help People Fulfill Their Responsibilities in Our Communities and Our World”

“I Want To Make the World Better Through My Leadership”

“I Want to Make Life Better For Future Generations Through My Leadership”

The journey to ethical leadership is a journey of human development. As we learn and grow, we begin to think beyond ourselves in ways that transform us and those we lead. We move from concern for self-interest to concern for self and others.

Which category of motives do you think reflects the highest level of human development? What reasons for leading would you add to this list? 

  
 
 
7 Lenses is a Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner in Business Ethics 41cEVx-Tu4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_
  2014 Axiom Business Book Award Winner “7 Lenses” 
  Your Roadmap For The Journey to Ethical Leadership (Foreword by Stephen M. R. Covey)  
 
 
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