Leadership For What?
A few weeks ago in one of my grad school classes, we had the privilege of listening to Bernice Ledbetter, the Chair of the Master of Science in Leadership at Pepperdine University. During her presentation, she shared a question that she had heard at an International Leadership Development conference: “Leadership for what?” As Bernice explained, this question stumped a lot of leadership professionals and educators.
Right when she said this question, it got me thinking about why I wanted to pursue a masters degree in leadership development. After working several years in corporate offices with executive teams, I started to realize that something was missing; there was a lack of leadership. Over the years, I was exposed to a variety of leadership styles, some productive and some counterproductive. I have also reflected and developed my values and style as a leader. But this question challenged me in a new way. What is the ultimate purpose of leadership? For what reason do we need leadership? Why should we care to engage in this work?
As I sit here forcing myself to think about the “for what?,” I find myself trying to avoid the question. What I have come to realize is that it’s because it means I have to define and choose my purpose and my reason — and that’s scary! There is so much uncertainty! However, as I work through the question, I ultimately think it comes down to leadership for change.
Why leadership for change? While I was engaging in this tough reflective work, I started to think about what drew me to my Master’s program. I really valued the way a Masters in Leadership Development would enable me to apply lessons and theories to various personal and professional goals. The versatility of the practice of leadership not only allows for people to develop their organizations and teams, but challenges them to be better individuals and members of society. And that is how I came to my answer. I believe we need leadership to create true, sustainable change. Ironically, while that is what I believe right now, I know that my answer may even change — and that is okay!
As you try to answer this question of “leadership for what?”, you may have a hard time like me or it might be easy or somewhere in between. There is no perfect answer, and it probably looks a little different for each of us. Exploring the depths and complexities of this question challenges us in a new way that many of us are not used to. So, I’d encourage you to spend some time reflecting, answering the question and most of all, figuring out how to make that “what” happen!
Getting to the root of this question can take some time, but it is an integral part of understanding our mission as leaders. Here are some questions to help you answer leadership for what?
- Why am I involved in leadership?
- What do I think we need more of in our schools, organizations, teams, communities?
- What impact do I hope to make as a leader?
*Meet the Author*
Dominique is currently pursuing a Master’s in Leadership Development and holds a B.A. in Strategic and Corporate Communications from Chapman University. She currently works as a Sales Associate at Sutherland and Perennials, an acknowledged leader in the design industry.
Favorite Quote: “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” – John Quincy Adams
Fun Facts: 1) I have two German Shepherds named Maverick and Goose 2) My first concert was at the age of 2.5 to see The Grateful Dead 3) I have lived in Las Vegas