The cost of leadership

I once heard the story of a woman who sat in an audience watching an expert pianist play. Afterwards, she went up and told the pianist that she would give anything to play like her.

“ He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose” - Jim Elliott, Missionary martyred in Ecuador.

I once heard the story of a woman who sat in an audience watching an expert pianist play. Afterwards, she went up and told the pianist that she would give anything to play like her. The pianist looked at her and said ‘no you wouldn’t or you already would have given 8 hours of practice a day for 20 years. If you gave what I have given then you would play pretty much as well as I do’.


Just like the woman in the story, many of us look at a champion or an outstanding leader and wish we were like them,but only a few of us will take the time to consider and appreciate what it has cost them in the process and ask ourselves if we are willing to pay the price to achieve growth. This  is what really counts.


I am on a learning journey and I invite you to join me so that together we can develop a shift of focus from the fascination of the perks and benefits that come with position and titles, to the cost, the burden and price that has been paid in the process. This will help us to have a balanced view and a deep appreciation of the leaders in our generation and perhaps we will be inspired to become great leaders in our own areas of influence.


This is something that not many people talk about. The cost you should and have to pay to become a successful leader. Being average is easy and simple, but deep down we all want our lives to matter and to inspire others. The truth remains, being a successful leader doesnot come easy. That is why we often tend to settle for the status quo.

My Coach says, “everything worthwhile is uphill”, an effort must be made to reach the top. Our existential paradox is that we want to be admired leaders but do not want to pay the cost or even understand there is a cost at all. I have asked my coaching clients what price they have paid for being and staying in leadership. The first response is always “taking responsibility for their teams, their plans, etc.”

While carrying the burden of getting results from your team, spending sleepless nights planning for the success of your organisation,or for making profit and ensuring shareholders are happy, etc. constitute an important cost to be paid, perhaps the most overlooked element, and certainly the most crucial of all, is the cost of personal growth. Without personal growth, you will soon become irrelevant. Growth is a leadership principle that many of us don’t understand, and, sadly, we don’t give it the attention it deserves.

There is an article that went viral on social media, entitled “Nokia CEO ended his speech saying, we didn’t do anything wrong but some how we lost”. That article, concludes by stating that “those who refuse to learn and improve, will definitely one day become redundant and not relevant.

The leadership Guru John C Maxwell believes that the future illiterate will not be those who can’t read and write but those who will not learn, relearn and unlearn. But again who teaches you how to be a pursuer of growth? How can you tell that you are growing? I shared my thoughts on this subject in my previous article “Personal growth is intentional”.

Paying the cost of growth is not optional and there is no way around it if one wants to avoid becoming a “future illiterate”. You will pay your resources of money and time, and you will be required to make an uncomfortable stretch which won’t give immediate payoffs.

Napolion Hill, author of “Think and Grow Rich” had this to say about growth, “Those who are not successful usually make a mistake of believing that the knowledge acquiring period ends when one finishes school- the truth is that schooling does but little more than put one in away of learning how to acquire practical knowledge.”

Most of us can relate to how less inspiring we found a boss or colleague who stopped studying merely because he/she has finished school. It is said that if you’re still leading from yesterday’s ideas, you’re not a leader, but a history teacher. What are you learning today that you didn’t know yesterday, or last week or last month or last year?

I hope that this article stimulates us to become pursuers of growth as leaders. Only those leaders who are ready and are willing to pay the price of taking the uphill journey, will get things done. The followers will flourish under their guidance and their impact will outlive them. The choice is yours. Decide today. What price have you paid? What price are you prepared to pay?

The writer is an Independent Certified Coach, Trainer and Speaker with the John Maxwell Team. Prior to this, she served as an Operations Manager and Project Specialist at United Nations Population Fund, both in Rwanda and at the UN/HQ, NYC.

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