I was listening to Neal Katyal talk about the law and ethics as it relates to governmental leadership and something he said helped me clarify my own thoughts on leadership. I’m generally somewhat averse to the culture of management in North America for a range of reasons, but I’ve never been able to articulate it, except in rants about bad managers and the like.

His point (paraphrased and layered with my own opinion) was this: leadership is a position of trust and not a position of personal gain; when your actions as a leader become about what is in your own personal best interest and not about what is in the best interest of the group you lead or the organization you are part of, then you need to step down.

You should see your reward for being a good leader as the success of your organization and your burnished reputation as a leader. This might (and perhaps should) lead to things like promotions or pay increases, but those should not be your primary goals.