What is Leadership?
What is leadership? I mean, really?
What does it even mean to be a leader?
I think there are so many misconceptions about what leadership is.
I certainly have had misconceptions my whole life and I’ve spent a huge part of my life studying it.
I actually have a degree in leadership and there are not that many of those out there.
And I’ve been fascinated with leadership for as long as I can remember.
And I love the concept and there are so many different takes on it, but I want to share with you, at least at this time in my life, what I have learned about what leadership is and just defining what leadership is.
Maslow Hierarchy of Needs
First, I want to connect this and talk about our overall hierarchy of needs.
And I think, everybody knows about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
These are the basic things that we need as humans to create our happiness, to find fulfillment, and to find joy and peace.
And Maslow created this hierarchy of needs.
And, you know, at the risk of arrogance, I’m going to challenge Maslow.
I think he missed it.
I think Mr. Maslow fell just a little bit short and here’s what I’m talking about.
At the highest part of Maslow’s classic hierarchy of needs, at the top, is what is called self-actualization, right?
It’s this idea of actualizing yourself, expressing yourself, being what you are meant to be, and the idea of living your highest self, which is great.
But unfortunately, I don’t think that that is what creates true fulfillment and lasting joy for many of us, at least not for me.
Impact of Social Media Effects
We live in a world of social media, where more than ever before, we all have the opportunity to express ourselves, let people know what we’re about, what we stand for, and what we believe, which is wonderful.
And it’s a beautiful thing.
And yet statistics tell us that for the people that spend a lot of time on social media, there’s a lot of depression. There’s a lot of anxiety. There’s a lot of self-doubts that result from it. There’s a lot of low self-esteem that comes even though we have this vehicle, this outlet, to express ourselves.
People today are looking for a purpose and trying to find an identity. How does my life matter? Or does it matter? Why does it matter?
And these are big and good questions to be asking.
And here’s how I think they tie back to what leadership is and looking at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
I think that self-actualization is not the highest rung.
I think there’s supposed to be one other rung above that, which is not self-actualization.
It is others-actualization.
It’s helping other people express themselves. It’s helping other people realize; it’s helping other people achieve their dreams. It’s helping other people become what they were meant to become.
There’s nothing quite like the feeling you get when you help someone else or somebody accomplishes something great, and you had something to do with it, right?
That’s an amazing feeling.
Or when somebody is in need, and you show up and fill that need or help them back is amazing.
There’s something special and magical about it.
It just gives you the chills and gives you this deep sense of joy and fulfillment.
It’s the same with parenting.
There’s something magical about teaching your child something and watching them do something that they couldn’t do before they could do it. They had thought they couldn’t do it.
And there is this deep sense of joy that we get from helping other people succeed.
And that’s what I think leadership is.
In a word, leadership is service.
It’s about helping others.
It’s about others-actualization.
And in that regard, you don’t really need any formal degrees or any specific criteria to be a leader.
All you need is a desire to help.
All you have to have is this calling inside of you, this impulse or a burning sense of purpose to go out and make a difference in someone else’s life.
That is the only essential requirement or criteria for being a great leader.
In fact, many of us think that leadership is not service. We think it is authority, status, position, etc.
But I would humbly submit to you that where fulfillment comes from, where purpose comes from, where joy comes from, is helping others achieve and express themselves.
There is something deeply satisfying about that.
Whatever you are doing, whoever you are, if you are looking to make a difference in the world and wanting to be a better leader, all you have to do is focus on others-actualization.
How about you? Do you have this calling inside of you? I’d love to know in the comments below.