There’s a common conception out there – merited in some cases and falsely assumed in others – that those who lead only care about themselves.
In Boss or Leader, this type of selfishness would be a “Boss” indicator. And though it is not true of a good leader, it is pervasive enough to have stereotyped leadership as being all about the leader, with little regard to the success of his or her team.
I’d like to eradicate that problem from its roots.
Are you a selfish or a selfless leader?
Definitions of these two words indicate the difference between the two comes down to whom you care about most.
To be clear, we each have both these traits. No one is truly altruistic. Selflessness is about having less self, but not totally losing yourself in the process. It is about balance.
As leaders, we must practice selflessness and beware of decisions and actions based on selfish motives.
How can you test your motives in order to keep “self” in balance?
“Selfish” indicates you are most concerned about yourself – your image, performance, and desires.
When faced with a decision, is your first thought, “What’s in it for me?” This is such a common trait that it has its own acronym these days: WIIFM. Do your people see you as a WIIFM leader?
When your principles are tested, do you think, “How will this make me look?” or “What will I lose if I stand firm on values?”
When it comes to setting goals for your organization, is your decision swayed by your own personal goals and desires instead of what is best for the company and its employees?
“Selflessness” stems from being more concerned about others than you are about yourself.
When faced with a decision, is your first thought, “How will this help the company and people involved – employees, stockholders, and customers?” Is this a win-win-win situation for everyone involved, or just you as the leader?
When your principles are tested, do you stand by them, no matter the cost?
When setting goals, are you willing to do what is best for your company and your people, even if it is not best for your own personal bank account?
Years ago, there was a story about a business owner whose employees had done exemplary work. As a result, his company was awarded a major contract. This golden goose was the one contract that could have sealed his wealth for the rest of his life. He could have taken the proceeds and retired. Instead, he split the proceeds with every single employee in the company. He was a great example of a selfless leader.
Now you might think he lost a great deal by being selfless in this instance; but his actions toward his people gained him even more loyalty and respect. And his company went on to garner even more high-end contracts because of the reputation of the owner and his people.
Who is a stronger leader – a selfish person or a selfless person?
Many think a selfless leader is weak – that they simply give in to the will of their people.
This could not be farther from the truth. It takes strength to make difficult, unbiased decisions. It takes character to overcome the urge to make those decisions with less regard for self and more regard for the organization and its people.
It takes strength to stand on principles as well, and to pay the costs that come with doing so. In actuality, being a selfless leader takes more strength than being a selfish leader because it requires that we go against our natural human nature, which draws us to protect our own interests, even at the detriment of others.
Being a selfish leader is easy.
You only have one person to please and one person to look out for…YOU. But if you have ever had to get into shape, you know that “easy” does nothing for you. In fact, “easy” is how you got out of shape in the first place!
Have you ever had someone say, with regard to a meeting, “I will be there at 1:30-ish?”
What does that mean?
It means you will likely be waiting past 1:30 p.m. It means they are not sure or can’t commit to a specific time. It means their plans are somewhat undefined.
The word “self-ish,” has similar connotation. It means you are not fully committed to someone or something. It means you are undefined and uncertain.
This is that root of which I spoke.
Selfish leadership very often stems from uncertainty and lack of commitment. While it may appear to be the stronger position, it is, ironically, the weaker one.
The real reason leaders become the subject of gossip around the proverbial water cooler is rooted in selfish leadership – and selfish leadership is centered on self, instead of others; position instead of personal connection; and weakness instead of strength.
Effective leaders genuinely care about and are supportive of employee success. They engage and connect with their teams.
They are principled.
They are selfless.
Will you make the choice to be a selfless leader?
Dave Ferguson is “The Leaders’ Coach”, an internationally recognized executive leadership coach, speaker, facilitator, and author. Are you interested in talking to Dave about coaching or having Dave speak to inspire and motivate your team? “ASK COACH DAVE” at 704-907-0171 or at Dave@AskCoachDave.com.