Why Truly Effective Leaders Love to Lead

What strikes me consistently about those who lead beautifully, no matter their position, industry or company size, is that these people really love the actual practice of leading. Though there are about as many different definitions of great leadership as there are microbrews in our hometown of Bend, OR, the single most palpable feeling I consistently get from the truly effective leaders I work with is that leadership itself makes them feel activated, enlivened and potently engaged.

Three elements show up in these kinds of leaders:

  1. They see their job as connectors and enablers of the success of others.
  2. They consciously create space for others to enter.
  3. They openly participate with their whole hearts.

“My favorite part of the job is creating the culture with people, setting the vision, growing the team.”

– Sarah Pool, CEO of Pacific Superfood Snacks

“Paul Harris is the former CEO and Co-Founder of FirstRand bank in South Africa. Although he is a wealthy man, his favorite topic of conversation isn’t about money or status. What fires him up is bringing people together as equals. He doesn’t think people work for him. He works with them.”

– Margaret Heffernan, Beyond Measure

As my partner Jim Morris describes in his book, The Five Insights of Enduring Leaders, leadership must include the formation of certain character traits, both ephemeral and transient. Those leaders who are able to invoke others to follow almost always carry the trait of being great at creating strong relationships and connections – leveraging social capital.

When leaders see their job as inherently focused on building relationships, and leading well (not simply executing, measuring, or accomplishing) employees feel remarkably activated and satisfied. What is practiced at the top gets emulated at the bottom.

At Moementum, we study effective leadership a lot.

We teach about it, we practice it, and we are frequently called upon to reinforce, rebuild, and enliven it in companies. Of course, we see leaders at all levels face enormous challenges, ranging from cash flow and market barriers, to competitive dynamics, infrastructure limitations, work/life integration, and more. But truly effective leaders don’t get stuck there. Instead, they focus on the subtle and complex, key role of leading.

Now, this doesn’t mean they never have a bad day, or that managerial or executive problems aren’t burdensome. On the contrary, the work is tough, and as one inspired leader recently told me, “if I let it, the job can overwhelm me.”

Not everyone wants this ephemeral, unspecific, diverse and ambiguous job we call “leader.” But the great ones, those truly effective leaders whom we will follow anywhere, celebrate the fact that leadership is their work.

In the halls of organizations all over the world, I have met people who are unhappy, disengaged, and disheartened every day when they wake up and go to work. Data confirms this. The 2014 Gallup poll reflects that 51% of employees were still “not engaged” and 17.5% were “actively disengaged” in their work last year. I find myself wondering, do the leaders of the companies where employees are the most disengaged really love their jobs?

If you are a leader who doesn’t love your job, I invite two questions:

  1. Do you love leading? Why does that matter to your organization, to you, to employees, to the world?
  2. What would activate you with joy if leading isn’t it?
Jim Morris