Leaders who seek to lead are no leaders at all. Leaders who seek to be followed are no leaders at all. It is only those who seek the greater good who become great leaders.

I began the 100 Days of Leadership series with, “everyone wants followers, but few know how to lead.” The problem isn’t that we need more leaders. It’s that we need less people seeking to be followed. You see this fundamental chasm play out on social media. On Instagram, people sell themselves and their lifestyles for more “followers.” On Twitter, there are gurus who sell their methods for gaining more “followers” to those who think more followers will fill the gigantic void where self-worth once lived. Unfortunately, the market of ideas in 2021 points to the acquisition of followers, further intensifying the lack of understanding of what it means to be a true leader.

Despite what the textbooks tell you, leadership is not something you do. It is not a goal in itself. It is something you grow into and become. It is a burden to be shouldered, not by the faint of heart who need followers for validation, but by those who live the long game and inspire others through action and determination to achieve something greater than themselves. Leadership itself serves no one but the leader. The leader’s ego is served by being called “the leader.” However, it’s in the actions of the leader that make the difference in the lives of others. Those who seek leadership as an end in itself, as most politicians do, eventually find that sheer recognition isn’t quite worth the steep price of admission.

In the study of leadership, there is so much emphasis on the mind that we forget that the prerequisite of leadership is the heart. As a leader, ask yourself: where does your inspiration come from? What is the foundation that supports you? Is it principle? Or is it popularity? Is your cause so insignificant that you need a certain number of followers to validate it? Search your soul before you move forward. Because if you can’t answer these questions honestly in your own mind, they will be answered for you in no uncertain terms in the court of public opinion when your mettle is tested in the heat of the moment. Realize that the true leader doesn’t seek to lead. The true leader doesn’t seek validation. The true leader seeks purpose.

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