I was flying from Cleveland to Chicago to meet my wife, June, and two young sons. They were flying from Los Angeles to meet me for a brief Christmas holiday. I had been “too busy” to fly back to help her cope with our toddler and the baby. (It is really so embarrassing to relate this story now.)
I was 29 years old and working nightmare hours for a high-flying firm that was rapidly acquiring companies. My job was to fly out and spend all week, every week, “integrating” the acquired firms. “Integrating” meant consolidating their plants, cutting duplicate costs, and often firing their founders. The look of disbelief on those entrepreneurs’ faces when they were terminated just broke my heart.
In Chicago my wife asked me, “Why are you doing this?”
I was neglecting her and our sons and crushing my own soul.
I said, “I’m doing this for us, for our family, so we can have a better life.”
Her snap-back stunned me: “No, you’re not. You’re doing this for you.”
I knew in my heart she was right.
I was a Harvard MBA and ex-military officer with one goal: “I want to run something.” That was it. For me to be in charge, running something, anything, as long as I was in charge.
So, with my dear wife’s blessing, I quit that job outright.
I spent the next 30 years on a quest to find a better way to lead. When I found that better way, I joined with my son, Gregg, to write about leadership. We interviewed leaders in 61 organizations in 11 countries (including Cisco, eBay, Google, Mayo Clinic, and Zappos). The subtitle of our book, Triple Crown Leadership, tells it all: “building excellent, ethical, and enduring organizations.”
Mastering the art of leadership starts with understanding why you want to lead.
If you don’t honestly understand why you want to lead, you may be driven by the misguided ego that drove me.
Ask yourself, “Why do I want to lead?”
Jot down some honest notes. If it’s all about you, then you may need to rethink your motivations.
Mastering the art of leadership begins with truly understanding why you want to lead.
Bob Vanourek and Gregg Vanourek are leadership practitioners, teachers, trainers, and award-winning authors. They are co-authors of Triple Crown Leadership: Building Excellent, Ethical, and Enduring Organizations, a winner of the International Book Awards, and called “the best book on leadership since Good to Great.” Take their Leadership Derailers Assessment or sign up for their newsletter. If you found value in this, please forward it to a friend. Every little bit helps!