Over the years of collaborating with teams and team members, I have observed a choice that most will face in their leadership journey.

This is whether they want to move “up” in the organization toward more influence and leadership or focus more on deepening their existing competencies and skill sets.

Not only is there not a single right answer for everyone, but there also is not even a single right answer for every circumstance.

Most often this is going to be a choice made based on circumstances and current levels of life experience.

There are good reasons to grow one’s positional influence within an organization. Every opportunity that comes is not necessarily the right opportunity, however, and a decision made for the wrong reasons can inhibit and harm one’s career path rather than improve it.

Let us look at three questionable motivations for taking on a greater leadership role.

  1. Questionable Motivation 1: A Desire for More Power
    • All of us have a level of desire to control our outcomes. It is part of human nature. Power for the sake of power, or solely to be able to control outcomes, is a dangerous foundation for wanting more leadership. The outcomes of this are inevitably someone who looks to over-dominate team members, micro-manage, and create a culture of fear. Often, these qualities will bring short-term results, however, history will show us that this type of leadership is unsustainable and inevitably will come crashing down. It is good and desirable to wish to have leadership to help shape more desirable outcomes and team culture but the quest for power for power’s own sake is a losing proposition for all involved.
  2. Questionable Motivation 2: A Desire for More Compensation
    • All of us have financial responsibilities which extend past our own needs. We may feel pressure to provide for a family beyond basic levels. Again, this in and of itself does not have to be a terrible thing but if it acts as a sole motivation toward working for promotions then one can be heading down a bad road. Those with years of life experience will be quick to tell us there is often a “so what” moment later in one’s career. This is a time of reflection when one is not just where they are in their career but also what they have traded away to get there. Some would voice prudence in the pursuit of material gain as an end in and of itself. Often this can come with an excessive cost of sacrifice of time with family and other important non-work areas of life. One must weigh this major decision because time is not something one can get back. Before automatically accepting an opportunity that increases your compensation make sure you have carefully thought through your work life vs. personal life balance and had these intentional conversations with your loved ones.
  3. Questionable Motivation 3: A Desire for More Respect
    • As with the two listed above, there are basic human desires rooted in this. Everyone wants respect and that is an honorable characteristic to pursue. We must remember what we know is true; respect for one is earned and not given. In other words, if one believes respect comes with a title, not only is one mistaken but will be misunderstood and disliked. Respect comes as an outflow of character and trust. A title is not a shortcut to more respect, in fact, it more often means one must be even more intentional than they were to proactively build relationships.

None of the above should come as any real surprise to any of us. The most fundamental aspects of life are most often self-evident. Misplaced motivations to grow one’s leadership will not produce long-term desired influences. If we choose to pursue more leadership it has to be for the right reasons. We will examine these in the next installment.