“Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful” (Albert Schweitzer).

Why Do Leaders Stop Enjoying Being Leaders?

Leaders of all levels, disciplines and sectors face challenges – their internal motivation, drive and passion to be a great leader, and external environmental forces that impact their choices and freedom to lead. Philosopher Albert Schweitzer believed that the key to success is to be happy in what you do. So why do leaders stop enjoying leading?

Two of the core skills needed for leaders in any business is their ability to both support and challenge their employees. People possess their own natural leadership style and preferences; some leaders naturally apply high levels of challenge, while other leaders naturally apply high levels of support. However, without a situational mix of both challenge and support, the result can be disastrous.

What Happens if They Are Not Balanced?

A leader who does not apply equal levels of support and challenge, particularly when using high levels of challenge, runs the risk of creating a team of individuals who are neither engaged nor producing results. A leader who naturally applies high levels of support without a balance of challenge will create a team of people who love him or her but who do not deliver results. As a consequence of an imbalance, the leader will suffer from a number emotions, such as disappointment, frustration, disillusionment, embarrassment and even anger. The result? Disengagement for both the individual team members and the leader. Ultimately, the leader may display a reduced level of emotional intelligence, expressed in his or her verbal responses and physical demeanor.

As increasing external forces and a demanding work environment outweigh the self-drive to be a strong and effective leader, disengagement begins. Initially, you can recognize this disengagement in anxious and desperate behaviors commonly described by direct reports. Those behaviors include micromanagement and the suffocation of autonomy, all in the leader’s desperate plight to deliver results.

How Can Leaders Enjoy Being Leaders Again?

Leaders need to make a choice – a conscious and concerted effort to be engaged and motivated to lead, to not be a victim of their circumstances or their own actions. As the world changes, so do the values, goals and strategies of the businesses we work for. Frequently, individuals are promoted into leadership roles when their credibility has been built upon their technical expertise and not on management ability or experience. Leading a team of people requires knowledge, skills and, most importantly, the time to invest in applying them.

It is important not to forget that leaders are human. They experience all the emotions others feel. What does it feel like to be a senior leader, for example? The role is described by some as lonely at the top or even feeling excluded, where their peers are their direct competition, and their reporting line is envious of their success. Many senior leaders even say they are in a position 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. Enjoying leading truly needs to come from within. The focus needs to be of an internal lens; help leaders develop the art of self-reflection and self-mastery, for it is only leaders themselves who can ultimately offer the reasons they no longer, in the words of Joseph Campbell, “follow their bliss.”