The final characteristic of a true leader (in this epic 10-part series, that is) is ambition.
It seems like kind of a given, of course, that a leader would be ambitious — that he or she would be in a leadership position because he or she desires power, or influence, or money.
But sometimes people get promoted into leadership positions without really being ready or even wanting to be in that position.
We’ve all seen it, right? The PTA president who stepped up only because no one else would? The manager who was promoted because the department head liked her? The City Council member who ran a good campaign, but now isn’t exactly sure what he’s doing up there?
On the flip side, sometimes people get into “leadership” positions from what we call “naked ambition” — that desire, simply, for money or power no matter how it is gotten.
I.e., we probably all know people who will say anything to get what they want.
But the truth is, while ambition has an ugly side, it also creates the inner fuel that helps drive people toward their vision. E.g., people with ambition don’t just sit around and say, “gosh it would be nice to influence events in my town.” They get up and run for City Council.
People with ambition don’t simply wish they could own their own businesses — they go ahead and develop the business.
And people with ambition don’t dream of writing books, or having their photographs hang in galleries, or developing non-profit organizations to help sick children in third world countries — they write the books, and contact the galleries, and set up the organizations.
It’s ok not to be ambitious. I know plenty of people who just aren’t all that driven to reach the top of their fields or change the world.
But to be a leader, a good dose of true ambition — especially the do-gooder kind of ambition — really helps.