People ask me if there’s value to learning leadership if you don’t plan to lead.
Yes, at least with the style of leadership I teach, based in self-awareness and emotional skills. It helps across many areas in your life, especially your relationships and self-awareness. I’m not sure if command-and-control or some other styles help as much.
Here are six reasons, not comprehensive, that come to mind first.
1. Leadership skills improve your relationships
All relationships involve some give and take, negotiation, conflict management, listening, understanding, and so forth. These areas are what leadership covers. Developing skills in those areas, even in just one area of your life like work, helps you with relationships in all other areas, including with family, friends, colleagues, classmates, neighbors, significant others, and so on.
When I started learning leadership skills, I didn’t realize the value of relationships. Now I see them as the most important part of my life, along with my health. They play a major role in my well-being. They help me get things done that I can’t myself.
Improving my leadership skills showed me the value of relationships and led me to improve them. Nearly every relationship I have today means more to me than nearly all my relationships from before.
2. Your community may need leadership before you know it
My mother lives in a community where oil companies want to frack. Many of her neighbors believe fracking would cause their community and environment to deteriorate, their homes to lose value, and the water to become unsafe to drink. The oil companies stand to profit heavily.
Independent of your views on fracking, many in her community have their views that differ from the oil companies’. The oil companies have effective leadership and get their views heard by the government. Her neighbors don’t have as effective leadership and have a harder time getting their views heard.
What might happen in your community when forces act on it if no one there can organize?
3. Leadership and leadership skills promote self-awareness
Leading others, or just learning how to, leads you to face parts of yourself others see but you’ve learned to deny or hide. Every system of personal development has some concept of “know thyself,” suggesting that learning more about yourself improves your life.
Leadership skills help you understand yourself, your motivations, your emotions, and so on, which makes you more calm, thoughtful, effective, and so on. You learn your values. You create meaning. You connect with others more deeply.
4. Leadership helps you communicate in both directions
Effective leadership involves working with people’s motivations, which you can only learn from other people. Leadership leads you to listen to others to understand them. Knowing their motivations helps you communicate your interests to them.
5. An opportunity may change your mind
Things that happen that might lead you to change your mind and want to lead:
- You want to start a company around an idea you think will improve the world
- You join a sports team
- You become a parent
- Your manager leaves, creating an opportunity for promotion
- You realize you could lead better than some leader you’re following
- You see a way to improve the world that, if you don’t lead, no one else will
6. You understand your leaders better
Whether you like it or not, people lead you—politicians, teachers, professors, parents, managers, coaches, and so on. The less you understand them, the more you’ll resent some decisions and actions they take. Misunderstanding and resentment don’t make for a great life for most people.
Understanding their choices and actions, even if you don’t agree with them, helps you understand their decisions, reducing resentment, anger, and so on.
Learn to make Meaningful Connections
with a simple, effective exercise from my book, Leadership Step by Step.
- Step by step instructions
- Video examples of me and Marshall Goldsmith
- An excerpt from my book