If You Seek Prestige, Please Don’t Try To Lead…

People who seek prestige through leadership roles or titles cause trouble and hardship for stakeholders. These individuals, expecting recognition, fame or fortune, fall flat when they awaken to the true demands of a leader.

“With great power, comes great responsibility.” -Ben Parker (paraphrasing others)

Therefore, please, I beg of you, if you’re out to “lead” for the supposed prestige, don’t do it. Chances are there is someone more appropriate who will actually serve the stakeholders.

The Problem With Prestige Seekers

Goofy Looking Man Represents Prestige Seekers Attempting to Lead in Vain“Wait,” you say, “I’m not only in it for the prestige, I am really willing to work hard!”

Save it. I’ve heard it all before, as have most people reading this post. News flash for you: we see through you, probably better than you see through yourself.You see, we have no doubt that you’ve fooled yourself into believing you’re out for the good of others. However, if the prestige you believe you will receive from a title or role attracts you, even slightly, you’re deluding yourself.

Self Sacrifice

If you want prestige, you don’t really know what it means to be a true leader. Being a leader means self-sacrifice. Some leadership roles demand more sacrifice than others, but all require some, if they are to be done well. Whether it is the time you commit to the cause, travel away from loved ones, sleepless nights or other forms of sacrifice, the point is, all good leaders give up something.

Listening

Prestige seekers like to talk. Whether it is to the press, an audience or a group of employees. The prestige seeker desires the attention of others. In contrast, good leadership means listening to others. Spending a great deal of time hearing what others have to say and understanding the complexity of their challenges.

Humility

If you want any form or prestige, you likely assume a sense of entitlement. Whether it’s the prime parking spot at the office, a ridiculous compensation package that dwarfs the average employee’s or better airline seats. The prestigious wannabe believes they’ve earned it. In reality, great leadership means aligning with the needs and experiences of the average stakeholder. This includes experiencing that which a typical employee, customer or partner must go through on a daily basis. Hiding in ivory towers is not leadership.

Service, Not Prestige

Robert Greenleaf was fond of pointing out that servant leaders are individuals who seek to serve, first and then, upon considering the best ways to serve, choose leadership (paraphrased). This is leadership: service to – not from – stakeholders. Prestige has nothing to do with leadership and leadership has nothing to do with prestige.

So please, if you seek prestige, don’t try and lead. Odds are you will falter and fail when you discover that leadership is not as prestigious as you expected.

Question: What does leadership mean to you?

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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

6 thoughts on “If You Seek Prestige, Please Don’t Try To Lead…”

  1. I agree, but i feel this is kind of out of scope of what leading really is. No matter what type of leader you are whether charismatic, servant, transformational,etc..it always assumes some level of prestige or recognition. Just because you are a leader for the servants does not deminish the fact that you are a leader and will be respected as the leader; and no matter what words you put in fornt of leader, there will always be recognition and prestige that comes with the type LEADER. With being a servant leader you get recognition and prestige from the people you are serving. Like i said, i agree with you partly, i just dont think you are arguing the right point. You can definitely be a Servant Leader and still be seeking praise, prestige, and recognition from the people you are serving. No matter what type of leader you are, you are going to have some amount of prestige; whether you’re seeking it or not is beside the point. What you are saying is that prestige correlates with what type of leader i choose to be. But in actuality, Prestige is going to be present no matter what type of Leader i choose to be, or what reasons i have for becoming a Leader. I dont think its fair or accurate to say that one type of leader is automatically better than the next, all types of leaders have their strengths and weaknesses, but what you are doing is posting a half-accurate blog, talking about the strengths of being a Servant Leader when in fact this type of leader has its weaknesses as well. There are some situations where a Charismatic Leader might be a better leader than a Servant Leader. All im saying is argue the right points, and the right points is that all leaders seek some form of prestige and recognition when they assume a Leadership title/role, some seek it in the form of praise from the people they are helping and some for more malicious and conceded reasons; that is the point to argue.

    1. Thank you, Alton, for making the time to provide your feedback. 

      As Greenleaf wrote, “It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first
      Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from one who is leader first”… (emphasis added).The point I want to make here is precisely that order. As a leader, you may desire the respect and support of your team. However, if you seek to lead, because you seek prestige, your motivation is in the wrong place to serve others.You may also want to check out of some of the most popular servant leadership books

  2. Great job all!
    – Quick editing note:  is that a typo in the first sentence in the paragraph under the title:   HumilityIf you want any form or prestige, you likely assume a sense of entitlement.

    –Should it be “If you want any form ‘of ‘ prestige….”

    Keep up the great stuff!
    – J

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