Why aren't you striving to be a leader in your field?

I went to a very selective high school--Regis High School in New York City--and from very early on I was intimidated by my peers.  Our class was made up of the top 130 or so students out of nearly 1000 boys who took the test to get in.   I felt like I was #130, particularly at the speech and debate tryouts, where the guys waiting next to me were debating some political topic I wasn't even aware of.  For four years, I basically tried to hangout somewhere in the middle--and the top of the class both in terms of leadership and academics seemed unattainable to me. 

Fast forward four years and after an amazing internship, I felt ready to take on the world.  My time at Fordham was all about leadership.  I started a newspaper, ran clubs, interned, etc.  At the end of my time there, I was selected to be one of the top seven student leaders in my year.

So what changed?

It was a few things for me.  First, I didn't think I was capable of leadership--so why try if you're pretty sure you're going to fail, right?  Second, I never really saw a path to leadership.  I didn't really know where there were opportunities for leadership.  It was only when I got to college that I realized the third point--that you can create your own opportunities for leadership.  I had an idea for a newspaper about business in college and so I just went after it.  I did the research, figured out what I needed to do, and it was easier than I thought.

I'm curious about other people, though. 

If I said that the top people in your field, at your experience level, are active participants professional societies, write popular blogs about your industry, get asked to write articles for magazines and regularly speak on conference panels, that's probably a reasonable estimation of what it means to be on top, right? 

One would assume that such a person in a visible leadership position would basically be able to call their own shots in terms of the direction of their career, right?  If nothing else, they'd certainly be less likely to be laid off.

So, my question is why wouldn't everyone be setting that as a goal?  Of course 99% of people don't take a
look at their own industry and say "I'm want to be the most highly sought after person in this field... be recognized as an expert, and call my own shots."

But why don't they--specifically?

Is it because...

a) It seems like a big risk, because if you try and put yourself out there, you could fall on your face.

b) It seems like an awful lot of work and you don't have a ton of extra time.

c) You feel ok about your career and you don't really see the value in being one of those top people.

d) That seems like a good path, but you really don't know how or where you'd really start on a path like that.

e) Some other reason.


I'm curious...   Ask your friends that you think highly of, but who don't strive for leadership.  Ask yourself.  I really want to identify the causes.  I suspicion is that it's more of an information problem (what to do, where to do it, perception vs reality of taking career risks).