Is being a leader worth the effort?

If you find yourself asking this question, you are not alone. Most of us have doubts about our choice to lead at some point in our lives. But if you find you are adrift — going through the motions but not moving forward — it’s time to make a change.

Many leaders have too few hours and too little energy to bring their best leadership to bear, according to Sara King, coauthor of Discovering the Leader in You: How to Realize Your Leadership Potential. “As a result, leaders have begun to question their abilities, the direction their life has taken and their hopes for future impact,” says King. “We call this the problem of drift.”

If you stay adrift for long, you find yourself making decisions by default rather than conscious choice. You may feel frustrated, conflicted or unhappy. It takes a toll on your enthusiasm, vision and energy – all characteristics needed to lead effectively. “Leading by rote wastes good talent and energy, dilutes the talent and energy that others muster to create results and creates drag on company resources,” coauthor David Altman explains.

To boost yourself out of leadership drift, first consider some fundamental questions:

  • Are you currently in a leadership role? How did you get there?
  • Do you see yourself as a leader? Are you a leader all the time?
  • How comfortable are you with your identity as a leader?
  • Did you choose to become a leader or did it somehow choose you?

Then, take time to explore five issues to understand why you may be adrift and provide insight into how to take action:

  1. Current organizational realities. What’s your context? It can be as broad as the social, economic and global trends affecting leadership today. It might be more specific to your industry, your organization or your leadership role. The goal is to understand the broader circumstances that influence your current leadership situation.
  2. Leadership vision. A vision for your life describes what you see as the overall purpose of your life: what dreams you want to achieve, what goals you want to accomplish, the people you want to be with, the kind of life you want to have. To specifically look at your leadership vision, you want to ask, “What is the role that leadership plays in my life?” Being purposeful about what you want in life is important to being purposeful about what you want in your leadership situation.
  3. Leadership values. Values are the standards or principles that guide your beliefs, decision and actions. The ability to understand your values and leverage them as a foundational cornerstone of your leadership choices is a critical contributor to effective leadership.
  4. Leadership profile. Your leadership profile is your personal leadership tool kit. What do you draw on to lead? Your answer might include many factors, such as competencies, styles and experiences. Through careful analysis of your profile, you can assess what you see as your strengths and developmental needs.
  5. Current personal realities. You have a personal life that has an impact on your work life and a work life that has an impact on your personal life. How you integrate all aspects of your life with your responsibilities as a leader is one of the most challenging tasks you will face.

The book authors, who combined have nearly 100 years of experience assisting leaders in the development of their talents and careers, have written Discovering the Leader in You to guide people through the five issues in a practical, relevant way.

“The most effective leaders are those who commit themselves to getting better day by day and week by week and then apply their skills to improving the lives of other people in the organizations in which they work or their communities,” explains King. “Facing these issues will hopefully encourage you to make more conscious choices about why, when, how and where you lead.”

This article was adapted from Discovering the Leader in You: How to Realize Your Leadership Potential, by Sara N. King, David G. Altman & Robert J. Lee.

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