Wanting to lead

Wanting to lead and leadership are not the same thing.

We follow leaders for two reasons: either they know how to get where we’re trying to go, or else they don’t know but they’re willing to shoulder the responsibility for getting us there anyway. It’s important to understand which one we’re dealing with, because the skills and attitudes required to lead and to follow in the one case are very different from the ones required in the other.

If you want to lead, it’s best to figure out which one you are, then be very clear about it with those who are following.

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I'm a 30-something lawyer working at a fast-growing tech startup. I read Milton (John and Friedman) for fun. And I'm out to change the world.

3 thoughts on “Wanting to lead”

  1. But can’t a leader know where to go and be willing to shoulder the responsibility to help us all get there? It seems to me that the two are not mutually exclusive. I do agree that if someone doesn’t know where to go but is willing to shoulder the responsibility to help us get there, the experience of following that person will be different than following someone who knows where we need to go.

    1. You’re right, they’re not mutually exclusive. I thought about including the case of the person who knows where to go but doesn’t want to lead but decided that it’s a moot point because they are unlikely to lead anyway. Practically speaking I think I have it right, because even if they know where to go and are willing to shoulder the responsibility, you’re still following primarily because they know where to go.

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