Compulsion in Leadership isn’t simply an assertion or a choice. It is a deeply held conviction that… “things ought to be this way.”
In my interactions with leaders of all types, I seldom find this deeply held conviction. Many leaders simply eek out their assertions, reacting to circumstances and using their academic prowess to choice one direction over another. What happened to the premeditated endurance of chasing a conviction – simply because you believe that things ought to be a particular way?

The 12 inch chasm

It could be said that leadership that starts and ends in the brain is academic in nature and I for one am suspicious of whether such a Leader will endure when the going gets tough. Without a deeply seated conviction that things ought to be a certain way, where will the compulsion come from to endure when opposition begins to make the road taxing and expensive. Or, what motivation is there to press for things to be different, done in a way they have never been done before, when choices come at a higher price and are no longer convenient?

There are about 12 inches from your head to your heart. That is the distance that separates the source for compulsion and the source of academic choice. This chasm of distance seems short in our modern era, but is an impassable space for those that see the power of a compulsion and simply decide to have one. See, the problem with these crazy things, these compulsions, is that they cannot be born in the head. They are not simply a mental assertion. They can only be born in the heart. Compulsions are not made, they are found. Yes, they can be influenced and grown, massaged and even adjusted, but fundamentally they do not begin with cerebral understanding. They begin with a deeply rooted sense that is sometimes difficult to put into words. A sense that …“things simply ought to be this way!” The brain can support the heart in its convictions, but the heart cannot be made to enduringly support the brain in its assertions.

How to get Compulsion

This one is tricky because compulsion is essentially not manufactured, its discovered. So you cannot go out and buy it, turn it on, or mandate it. It simply has to be found. Some deeper introspection in an area of interest can reveal a compulsion, but its tough to get to a place of conviction that…“things ought to be a certain way”, unless you have something personally at risk. Something to gain or lose. As a result, the key here is probably to begin with the compulsion and then find some work that allows you to express it. In that order. 

If you find yourself working somewhere already and are leading, and after a gut check realize that you lack the deeply rooted characteristics of a compulsion that things ought to be a certain way – then it may not be possible to simply find it where you are. Consider shifting what you do to bring it into alignment with a compulsion you have. You will find your work far more fulfilling this way and your bravery in the face of opposition will increase. Followers will likely be inspired by your conviction and your bravery and followership as a whole will improve too.