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Leadership is vital to any company. Without a captain at the wheel, the ship runs aground – it’s simple, but it’s a necessity. Unfortunately, too many people in the business world forget exactly what it means to be a leader. It’s not a matter of collecting titles or moving up an org chart. It’s certainly not about making more money or accumulating power. Leadership is, in its best form, a terrible burden that must be shouldered by those who are driven to make a business succeed.

There’s a certain school of thought that ascribes the best leadership qualities to those who don’t want the position. While this might sound like it advocates shirking responsibility, it’s really referring to an understanding of what leadership really entails. Those who aren’t familiar with the concept see only the perks and privileges; those who really deserve the positions are those who understand that being a leader involves a significant amount of sacrifice. The people who are best suited for leadership, then, are those who can understand the burden involved with taking on such a position. It takes an understanding that the position isn’t necessarily enviable but rather necessary to provide a foundation for great leadership.

At a very basic level, a leader should be the first person to walk through the doors and last to leave. If there’s work to be done, it should be the leader leading the charge. This isn’t to say that every leader needs to be on the front line of the business and ignoring bigger picture work, but rather to say that the leader’s primary job should be to set an example. Great leaders don’t ask anything of their subordinates that they aren’t already doing themselves. There’s no rest for someone in a leadership position, only constant work.
Beyond that, the leader is the person who should be expected to make sacrifices. If someone needs to work on the weekend or stay late, it should be someone in a leadership position. If salary needs to get cut, the leaders should be the first in line. In making sacrifices, they create a culture of a business. It’s hard work and often unpleasant, but it inspires everyone else in the company to put in an equal effort.

Leadership requires sacrifice and work. If a leader seems comfortable, he or she isn’t doing the job correctly. To truly lead, one must be willing to stand out front and take charge.