Success is not the key to happiness.
Happiness is the key to success.
If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.
– Herman Cain

Leaders of all levels, disciplines and sectors face their own challenges; their internal motivation, drive and passion to be a great leader as well as external environmental forces that impact upon their choices and freedom to lead.

Herman Cain advocated that the key to success is to be happy in what you do. So why do leaders stop enjoying leading? Comes from the results identified by answering the question why do leaders become unhappy in their role as a leader? There is a suggestion that for many this has not always been the case. Two of the core skills needed of any leader, in any business, is their ability to both support and challenge their reportees.  As individuals we all have our own natural style and preferences; some leaders naturally apply high levels of challenge, other leaders naturally apply high levels of support, however without a situational mix of both challenge and support, the result can be disastrous.

How does this happen?  A leader who naturally applies high levels of challenge without equal levels of support will create a team of disengaged individuals who do not produce results. A leader who naturally applies high levels of support without a balance of challenge, will create a team of people who love them, but equally do not deliver the results. As a consequence of the imbalance of both challenge and support, the leader will suffer from a number emotions such as; disappointment, frustration, disillusionment, embarrassment and even anger, as their team fails to deliver. The result?  Disengagement for both the individual team members and the leader.

Ultimately, if the leader feels the pressure from above, over time they may become increasingly disengaged displaying reduced level of emotional intelligence, expressed in a visible demonstration of both their verbal responses and their physical demeanour of displeasure in their challenge to lead.

As increasing external forces and a demanding work environment outweighs the self-drive to be a strong and effective leader, the potential onset of disengagement begins. In the first instance this can be recognised in anxious and desperate behaviours, commonly described by direct reports as micro management, and the suffocation of any levels of autonomy, all in the leader’s desperate plight to deliver results.

This may mean that leaders need to make a choice, a conscious and concerted effort to be both engaged and motivated to lead. A choice not to be a victim of either their circumstances or of the consequences brought about by their own actions.

As we live and work in an ever changing world, so do the values, goals, and strategies of the business we work for. Change is inevitable but a leader’s acceptance of change can be uncertain, unpredictable and even volatile. These behaviours classically demonstrate the dissimilarity on the leaders own values, beliefs and vision and that of the business in which they work for. The result? A broken psychological contract. A typical ingredient for demise in proactive leadership.

Frequently individuals are promoted into leadership roles, where their credibility has been built upon the result of their technical expertise and not on previous experience in managing  people. Leading a team of people requires knowledge, skills and most importantly being afforded the time to invest in applying them both to the team in which they lead.

Finally, leaders are human, experiencing all the feelings and emotions as each of us do. Let’s take the seat of a senior leader, what does it feel like? Described by some as “lonely at the top-  even excluded” where your peers are your direct competition, and your reporting line is envious of your success.  Where self-actualisation is realised; they may be in a position potentially above their own current competence level.

It is a well-known theory that intrinsic motivation is stronger, deeper,  more powerful and much longer lasting than any external motivation, as such to “enjoy leading more” truly needs to come from within. To explore how this could be achieved, the focus needs to be of an internal lense; the art of self-reflection and self-mastery, for it is only ourselves who can offer the personal defying reasons as to why leaders no longer “follow their bliss*”.

*Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth, pp. 120, 149