Leadership is a privilege

I’ve been thinking a lot about leadership lately, as I make the transition from McAfee to my new role at Barracuda Networks.

As I was leaving McAfee, I heard from a lot of folks expressing appreciation for my leadership and contributions. Some comments were about positive changes I drove at the organizational level and other comments were about how I helped individuals in their roles. All of this was heartwarming.

But I’m not naive. No leader has a 100% fan base. And the fact that I drove a lot of cost cutting and personnel changes probably did not endear me to a lot of my people.

But the stories people shared with me on my leaving, and some that I heard secondhand, made me realize that as a leader you can have a profound effect on people for better or for worse.

Consider the cases in your career where you’ve done great work. Were you well and truly proud, or did it take some sort of validation from your boss to bring it home for you? I think the validation means a lot.

And conversely, when your boss doesn’t validate your work, it can really affect you. If you’re like me, you like to deliver and to please. I think it’s a very basic human need.

So if we as leaders carry this type of influence, perhaps we should think of leadership as a solemn responsibility. As a privilege.

This can be a very different way of thinking. Many career-minded people who have become managers “keep score” in their career according to metrics like the number of people they lead, their title, their pay, where they fit in the leadership hierarchy, etc. This mindset can desensitize us to the real foundation of leadership effectiveness and growth, which is to understand the privilege bestowed upon us.

With that “privileged” mindset, we move towards thinking of ourselves as coaches, enablers, even servants to our team. I think that’s a much more powerful way to orient ourselves as leaders and to guide our own professional growth.

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