Executive Leadership Is A Choice, Not an Obligation

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A 7-month-old boy lurks about my home. He decides that crawling is cool, but climbing and standing is where it’s at. He figures this out less than a day after becoming mobile. 

Standing, running, the talk, graduation, and grandkids are around the corner. Don’t blink. 

I wonder if we emulate this behavior as executive leaders as well. 

We pick something new and shiny—and then it’s directly onto the next. 

Does your career always have to be on to the nextest, mostest, greatest thing? Is it up and to the right or bust? 

Unequivocal success or trainwreck failure? 

Are we too proud to admit that we’re still learning to crawl—and bonk our heads on pointy furniture when we fail? 

Do we feel obligated to become a leader because that’s what society expects our fellow try-hards to accomplish?

Often, I work with executives who make demonstrable mistakes. 

Let’s take their choice of employer as one example. 

I’m sure that you can empathize here.

Maybe you’ve hopped into a new role and said to yourself, “Oh shit, what have I done? This team is a f#$king mess!”

Sometimes, these mistakes come from negligence, sometimes from urgency, sometimes from poor negotiation, and sometimes from the good ole’ recruiter-led bait and switch. 

Oh, and you know the most annoying fail—not knowing whatcha don’t know until it’s (seemingly) too late and you’ve already taken the job.

Whatever the reason, you’re no longer happy in your role.

Now, the problem. Most refuse to own the mistake and make a change. 

“Well, if I leave now, I will LOOK bad. I need to tough it out another year or two.”

Or even worse, they’ll try to spin some fabrication about why their mistake was a good thing with awkward stutters and wide, nervous, trembling eyes. 

They’ve been relegated to misery. 

It’s a fear-based decision. “What will people think of me if I quit?”

Why not take ownership? Why is the truth so hard for so many? 

You’d rather lead something you dislike? Your poor team. Your poor family. Your poor—you.

Further, if making a mistake and working for a team of clowns isn’t something you feel comfortable addressing honestly (without the politically correct doublespeak), I’d argue that you may be incapable of handling the challenges in the executive office.  

The best leaders exhibit a palpable fearlessness and trust. They are not obligated to lead for ego—they choose to address meaningful challenges head-on. 

I guarantee you’ll face much more complex challenges than the optics of a few short stints on your resume. 

Can you lead with confidence and honesty—or do you merely assume you deserve the title and pay?

When given a troublesome scenario, the best executive leaders aren’t obligated to be honest (we all know many who get away with dishonesty), but the best executive leaders CHOOSE to lead with integrity. 

What camp do you fall in?

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