You Cannot Lead What You Need

African American Businessman Praying or Begging or PleadingIf you need your job, you cannot lead the organization. The problem is a leader who is dependent upon income from their employer will be influenced by the perception of their decisions. In other words, if a leader thinks a tough decision has to be made that could negatively impact the perception of their boss, they may fear losing their job. As a result, they make a decision based upon the perceptions of a select few, rather than what’s best for all stakeholders.

So, how can anyone, employed by a company, be a leader in that company? You have two options:

1. Independent Wealth

Okay, I realize that’s not likely for most of us. However, it is a reality that someone with financial independence is not fiscally beholden to others and therefore freer to make decisions. Yes, financial dependencies and influences still exist, but the more fiscally independent one is, the less likely they are to make leadership decisions based upon their income need.

2. Confidence in Abilities

For the rest of us, you can solve this problem with confidence. For me, this confidence came about by being fired. Sounds odd, I know. But the simple fact is, after being asked for my resignation many years ago, I realized it wasn’t such a bad thing. The world didn’t end, my family survived and I actually wound up happier. Before that incident, I feared nobody else would hire me (bologna), I worried I’d never make the same money (craziness) and I was petrified of the black mark a job loss put on my resume (nonsense). Was it a painful lesson to learn? Sure. But it was a huge lesson.

The lesson was I am worth more to other organizations than I gave myself credit for. Most likely, if you’re afraid of losing your job, you also lack the confidence to lead. Get over that. Be confident in your abilities. Not overconfident – which can also be a huge downfall – but confident enough that you don’t need what you lead. Confident enough that your leadership is not burdened by dependency.

 So, are you independently wealthy? Great! This post was useless to you. No? Then I urge you to work on your confidence in your abilities. Hopefully, you won’t have to be fired to get there. I know I’m confident you don’t need that…

Question: What other ways do you see for someone to not need what they lead?


Picture of Ben Lichtenwalner

Ben Lichtenwalner

Ben Lichtenwalner is the founder and principal of Modern Servant Leader and Radiant Forest, LLC. He has studied and promoted servant leadership awareness and adoption for over 20 years. He is the author of 2 leadership books and has 2 decades of corporate management and leadership experience. His corporate experience spans CIO, VP, Director, and many management roles at Fortune 500, INC 500, and Nonprofits. Ben’s education includes a B.S. in Management Science & Information Systems from Penn State University and an MBA from Lehigh University. Ben's Full Profile Here: About Ben Lichtenwalner

4 thoughts on “You Cannot Lead What You Need”

  1. marilyn bostick

    how interesting…it makes one who is even lower think about the real value of ones contribution without perks.

  2. I agree completely with this article from my own experiences. I would be curious to see if there were any discussions or studies relating this idea with the economic recession. I was quite a bit more confident & gutsy when there were countless other job opportunities available.

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