"I need someone to make me do what I know I need to do," said one, "I need someone to motivate me," said another, "I could do more if you would just hold me accountable like a boss," said still another. These and other comments by the hundreds of this nature I have heard in my years of working with and trying to develop other leaders. These statements, although all well-intended and hopeful, are way off the mark.
Leadership is an inside job. If someone from the outside is required to push you, or to motivate you, or to manage you like a boss does an employee, in order for you to perform as a leader, then you probably need to get out the Launching a Leadership Revolution book and read it all over again. Leaders are not pushed from without, they are driven from within.
One of the precepts of the book is that leadership begins and ends with Hunger. If a person isn't hungry deep inside for achievement, for changing something about their world, for making something better, for winning or advancing, then they are not a leader at all. Don't get me wrong. People can still be productive, honorable, and valuable outside of the realm of hunger, but they should never be called a leader, no matter what their official title or position.
What happens inside of people that makes them decide to take personal responsibility for leading? What is it that makes up the substance of leadership? This is not an easy question to answer. Thousands of books, including ours, makes the attempt. But no matter how much it is studied, or how much it is written about, leadership will always have an elusive quality to it. That's because it is part art, and not all science. It is wrapped up in the very identity of the leader. But it's spark has everything to do with hunger. How it is manifested is largely art, but how it begins is through the courage of conviction that becomes a hunger.
I have nothing but the highest respect for the people who choose to push, strive, grow, and advance when times get tough or confusing. It's when people are left more to their own in the turmoil of the storm that you find out the level of their leadership abilities. Tough times reveal tough leaders, and conversely, they expose imposters.
Don't ask your mentor to motivate you. Don't ask to have your hand held. Don't ask to be coddled. Such is not the territory of a leader. Ask for a challenge. Ask for danger. Ask for something that causes your heart to beat faster and your palms to sweat. Ask for a test of your courage, your character, and your staying power. Ask for that, and I'll know you have the infant spark of hunger that starts all leaders. Finish the journey through thick and thin and I'll know you ARE a leader. Help others to do the same, and I'll know that you are among the rarest of leaders.
Or, you can make excuses and blame your spouse. You can say the challenge was too hard, or that conditions weren't right. You can say timing wasn't good, or blame someone else for your circumstances. You can say you were busy, or tired. You can blame confusion and lack of information. You can blame your mentor, or even the President. Bosses make good scapegoats, too. You can blame your health or your age or your birth. Hide behind your color or your gender or your past. You could also blame your parents. You could claim offense and say someone hurt your feelings. You could blame your finances, too.
But leaders never fix blame, they just fix problems. Leaders never make excuses, they make progress. Leaders never hide behind circumstances, they throw themselves in the way of danger. Leaders don't cower at the dock when the sea kicks up, they head out on the open ocean with all sails a-flyin'. Oh yes, it's a rare person that musters the courage to lead. It's a tough individual that answers the call of courage. And there is nothing that says that it can't be YOU.
Lead on! And be prepared to do most of it yourself.