Several years ago I was working with a group of senior leaders at a large construction company. We were having a lively conversation about leadership when someone asked me, “Hey, Vince, what is leadership?” I said, “Leadership is a decision.” It was the very first time I had said those words out loud. It was an intuitive response, in the moment. But right away Earl, one of the participants, snapped, “Well, I never got to make that decision!”
Earl was the senior vice president of engineering services. He had started out as an engineer, but the organization soon offered him a supervisory role and a series of promotions. Earl said that he accepted each of these promotions without thinking about whether he truly wanted a new role or if he was really ready to commit to it.
I looked around the room. Everyone was listening intently. It seemed like Earl’s story was striking a chord with the other leaders.
Earl explained that he thought taking on those leadership roles was the logical thing to do. From a practical perspective, it was the only way he could make more money and get more prestige within the company. But he said that every time he took on a more senior leadership role, he moved further and further away from what he really loved to do: engineering.
I have told Earl’s story a lot and have been surprised by how many leaders say they’ve done the exact same thing.
It is no longer good enough for us as individuals to do like Earl did. Although making more money, expanding your skills, and having more impact are all somewhat valid reasons to be a leader, they are no longer enough in today’s world of business.
Every day you have opportunities to make a leadership decision. But do you answer that call? Many times making the leadership decision to lead isn’t easy- it’s easier to stay put and play it safe. But staying put makes you an empty chair leader and this keeps your organization stuck.
Check out a new video I’ve just posted where I explain more about leadership as a decision.
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About the Author
Vince Molinaro is the Global Managing Director of Strategic Solutions at Lee Hecht Harrison. He is also the author of The Leadership Contract – a New York Times and USA Today bestseller. Vince has spent more than 20 years as an adviser to boards and senior executives looking to improve leadership in their organizations.Follow on Twitter More Content by Vince Molinaro