Leadership is About Responsibility and Sharing Knowledge

I’ve had a fascinating couple of weeks meeting people, giving presentations, answering questions, asking some of my own. I’ve met a lot of edgy people–impatient, frustrated, nervous, anxious, wistful, naive, clueless. I guess that describes all of us at one point or another!

My leadership development work takes me to the offices of a diverse population. Men and women, young and not-so-young, of varying ethnic backgrounds and traditions, some with eager eyes and some with tired souls. They all have questions about leadership—what it is, who should do it, what it takes to become one, what benefits accrue to those who make it.

And they all want to be one. Well, most of them do.

When I ask why, I get a mixed bag of answers. No surprise there. What’s sad is that leadership aspirations are often tied to hopes of bigger salaries, greater visibility, maybe world-wide power, and all the “good life” benefits that today’s leaders enjoy. People want to be rich, famous, gorgeous and happy. That’s cool. I wonder, though, what happens when today’s corporate rock stars leave the stage?

There’s an adolescent quality to current notions of success that is disastrous to future generations. Adolescents are typically demanding, impatient, self-centered, sometimes callous, sometimes disrespectful, and usually oblivious to the ways their behavior affects others. These characteristics are normal. Adolescence is a growth phase, after all. But when people get stuck in it because they have no additional information or someone to help them continue to grow to a place of greater maturity, they suffer. So do the people around them.

I see a lot of adolescence reflected in my leadership conversations. Almost never do I hear about the privilege of teaching future generations how a business runs profitably and thereby sustains many families and the communities they live in. Almost never do I hear about sharing knowledge that a person has accumulated. Almost never do I hear about the responsibility leaders have (like it or not) to add value to current resources to make them stronger and more viable in the future. Come to think of it, I rarely hear about leaving a legacy anymore. It’s all about exit strategies and pay outs.

This would be a very depressing state of affairs, except for one thing. People genuinely want to know more. They want to do more. They want to be proud of themselves as they reflect on their work. When it comes right down to it, even the most self-centered will sometimes acknowledge that the picture had better be a lot bigger than them.

There’s a willingess to learn that we simply cannot leave unsatisfied. Calling all adults–we need you now.

Categories: General Advice

About Susan Marshall

founder susan marshall

Susan A. Marshall is author, speaker and founder, whose mission is to create a stronger, more confident future, one person or team at a time.  Through personal experience and hands-on work with executives from diverse industries at all levels, Susan has had the privilege of helping thousands of people do the difficult and exhilarating work of growth.