People who seek prestige through leadership roles or titles cause trouble and hardship for stakeholders. These individuals, expecting recognition, fame or fortune, fall flat when they awaken to the true demands of a leader.

“With great power, comes great responsibility.” -Ben Parker (paraphrasing others)

Therefore, please, I beg of you, if you’re out to “lead” for the supposed prestige, don’t do it. Chances are there is someone more appropriate who will actually serve the stakeholders.

The Problem With Prestige Seekers

Goofy Looking Man Represents Prestige Seekers Attempting to Lead in Vain“Wait,” you say, “I’m not only in it for the prestige, I am really willing to work hard!”

Save it. I’ve heard it all before, as have most people reading this post. News flash for you: we see through you, probably better than you see through yourself.You see, we have no doubt that you’ve fooled yourself into believing you’re out for the good of others. However, if the prestige you believe you will receive from a title or role attracts you, even slightly, you’re deluding yourself.

Self Sacrifice

If you want prestige, you don’t really know what it means to be a true leader. Being a leader means self-sacrifice. Some leadership roles demand more sacrifice than others, but all require some, if they are to be done well. Whether it is the time you commit to the cause, travel away from loved ones, sleepless nights or other forms of sacrifice, the point is, all good leaders give up something.


Prestige seekers like to talk. Whether it is to the press, an audience or a group of employees. The prestige seeker desires the attention of others. In contrast, good leadership means listening to others. Spending a great deal of time hearing what others have to say and understanding the complexity of their challenges.


If you want any form or prestige, you likely assume a sense of entitlement. Whether it’s the prime parking spot at the office, a ridiculous compensation package that dwarfs the average employee’s or better airline seats. The prestigious wannabe believes they’ve earned it. In reality, great leadership means aligning with the needs and experiences of the average stakeholder. This includes experiencing that which a typical employee, customer or partner must go through on a daily basis. Hiding in ivory towers is not leadership.

Service, Not Prestige

Robert Greenleaf was fond of pointing out that servant leaders are individuals who seek to serve, first and then, upon considering the best ways to serve, choose leadership (paraphrased). This is leadership: service to – not from – stakeholders. Prestige has nothing to do with leadership and leadership has nothing to do with prestige.

So please, if you seek prestige, don’t try and lead. Odds are you will falter and fail when you discover that leadership is not as prestigious as you expected.

Question: What does leadership mean to you?