Do you want to be happy, or would you prefer to be a leader? Don’t decide too quickly. And if you are already a leader, do you know if you’ll able to do the one thing that could allow you to be content when it’s all over?
Most leaders aren’t happy when the day is done or their career is done. From studying history and watching and working with many leaders up close, I’ve seen that few ever are able to take lasting satisfaction in their accomplishments or in the tributes paid to them.
The very same hunger that drives them to do big things leaves them starved and emotionally emaciated in the end. And the same drive to “put a dent in the universe” leaves a dent in them, their families and their organizations. I’ve also noticed that most of them, toward the end of their lives, experience a genuine hell on earth, which is to be in irreversible decline while others take over the alpha spot. (The scene is captured in Shakespeare’s King Lear, when the vain monarch rants, under a raging storm, against the vain daughters who supplanted him.)
“Kings are history’s slaves,” Tolstoy wrote. Fate uses them up, like gasoline, like food or water, along the way to wherever it will take us. The kings only discover at the end that they were mere fuel that would be replaced impersonally and inevitably by other fuel.