Joanne Trotta
Managing Partner & Founder
LeadersEdge Inc.

By Joanne Trotta, Certified Emergenetics® Associate, CEO of LeadersEdge, Inc.

Key Insights: 

-Most people do not want to become leaders
-Many individuals never examine why they choose to lead
-Understanding one’s motivations is critical to success and the ability to inspire others
-Finding your “why” requires you to look deep inside yourself, which can be challenging, and well worth the effort

“Why do you want to be a leader?”

It’s more than just a tricky interview question; it’s the inquiry that should exist at the heart of everything you do if you have been called to walk the leadership path.

Leadership is more than just the destination at the top of your career ladder. Yes, it tends to be accompanied by a nice salary, a decent office space and an enhanced social status. If those perks are someone’s “why,” that person is unlikely to last – or operate effectively – in their role.

I think it’s safe to say that we have all worked for individuals whose motivations have been dubious, at best. Have you ever been managed by someone who seems to be driven less by excellence and more by a paycheck? Or have you worked for someone who seems lost or tends to go through the motions without engaging you or your colleagues? These are leaders who have not examined their purpose or perhaps are in their roles for the wrong reasons.

You have numerous choices to make as you consider what you want your role to look like. These decisions will determine your ability to manage effectively, inspire people and make a positive impact on your organization. If you want to ensure that you make the right choices for you and the people you care about, you have to start by asking yourself, “Why do I want to lead?” Your answer should be the foundation for every decision you make.

Needless to say, this is serious stuff! Thankfully, every moment represents a new opportunity to check in with yourself, your values and the reasons you followed your calling into leadership. If you haven’t examined your own motivations for pursuing this career, or if you feel your reasons may not be authentic to your values, today is the day you can begin to change.

It all begins with asking yourself: “Why?”

Why People Want to Lead

You might assume that everyone has the desire to lead. In fact, the opposite is true! A few years ago, CareerBuilder surveyed more than 3,500 individuals about their career aspirations. Only 34 percent of respondents reported that they wanted to take on leadership roles. Just seven percent revealed that they wanted to rise to the executive level during the course of their respective careers.

The leadership calling is not for everyone, as it turns out. For these individuals, their purpose can be found elsewhere, and many are able to find success and fulfillment without rising to the top of the corporate mountain.

The key word here is “purpose.” Leaders who know exactly why they want to lead understand the role of purpose in their lives and careers. They aren’t in it for the money, prestige or status. They recognize the positive impacts they can make.

Looking through this lens allows individuals to focus on the real “why” behind their calling to lead or to not. If you don’t see leadership as a fulfillment of purpose, you may find yourself in an executive role for all the wrong reasons.

Purposeless leaders get into their roles for a number of misguided reasons, including:

  • A bigger paycheck
  • An increased sense of power or prestige
  • Higher status, inside the organization, as well as within the community
  • A nicer office and other workplace perks
  • An ego boost that is fueled by the ability to give orders to others

Still others get into leadership because it was chosen for them. Or they found themselves in leadership roles after a series of promotions. If you do not take time to examine your intentions, you may find yourself struggling.

If you are reading this blog, I think it’s safe to say you want a higher purpose for your job. You want to be authentic, and you recognize the difference between superficial benefits and real meaning. And yet, the path to self-discovery may still be a challenge.

Why Do You Want to Lead?

Leadership is about inspiring people and adding value to an organization. And here’s a little secret: People within organizations aren’t just looking at what their leaders do so much as they are examining why they operate the way they do. It makes a big difference!

For example, your team members may notice that you are a hard worker who frequently goes above and beyond the call of duty to make good things happen. However, if your purpose is to work hard so you can boost your ego or enhance your status, your people will see right through your efforts. On the other hand, if you work hard so you can add value to the organization, inspire others and make work easier for your team, people will be eager to follow you.

There’s a significant gap between the two scenarios, and it all comes down to finding your true motivations.

Do You Need to Dig Deeper to Find Your Why?

If you have not spent time finding your purpose, you’re not alone. Many leaders go through their entire careers without feeling the need to be so introspective. You are different. You want to be the best you can possibly be for your organization. That means you probably need to dig a little deeper.

Uncovering your motivations will require you to get to know yourself and your values. Self-awareness is critical; it allows you to peel back the layers of your personality and ambition so you can find what is at the core of your career aspirations.

As a first step, try reflecting on your natural gifts by using tools like the Emergenetics® Profile to understand what energizes you, and what unique strengths you can bring to your people, team and company.

Your exploration will require you to question yourself and your values, which can be difficult and uncomfortable, to say the least! And at the end of the process, you will feel much more confident about the reasons for pursuing the path of leadership.


Interested in building self-awareness to unlock your leadership potential? Email me at or fill out the form below to connect with the Emergenetics team to learn more.