You may have heard the story of two friends who met for dinner in a restaurant. Each requested filet of sole. After a few minutes the waiter came back with their order. Two pieces of fish, one large and one small, were on the same platter. One of the men proceeded to serve his friend. Placing the small piece on a plate, he handed it across the table.
“Well, you certainly do have nerve!” exclaimed his friend. ”
“What’s troubling you?” asked the other. “Look what you’ve done,” he answered. “You’ve given me the little piece and kept the big one for yourself.” “How would you have done it?” the man asked. His friend replied, “If I were serving, I would have given you the big piece.” “Well,” replied the man, “I’ve got it, haven’t I?” At this, they both laughed.
One leader’s self-confidence is another leader’s arrogance in the world of perceptions. So let’s put the cards on the table up front- many leaders struggle with acts of selfishness. We want the big piece of fish. It’s not a truth to take pride in but one in which we have to acknowledge if we are going to grow and mature as a leader. In my own leadership journey the biggest mistakes I’ve made along the way can be traced back to selfish acts.
Growing to this new level in your leadership is about overcoming your fears, insecurities, and misconceptions about what it means to lead in a selfless manner. Here are four traits of selfless leaders and why they matter.
Selfless leaders empower their people
The emergence of a selfless leadership style begins by embracing this fundamental principle: until you empower your people they are only spectators. When they are empowered they can produce, achieve, and succeed. Unless you mature in this area as a leader you will never grow to your full potential.
Why does this matter? It matters because in any successful organization it’s empowered team members who run with the vision, fulfill its mission, and achieve its goals. Selfless leaders make it possible not by promoting themselves but by promoting others.
Selfless leaders share the credit
Billy Hornsby once observed, “It’s okay to let those you lead outshine you, for if they shine brightly enough, they will reflect positively on you.” The powerful wisdom of that statement must not be lost on the reality that selfish leaders struggle in this area.
A selfish leader wants to take all of the credit- often at the expense of work others did, and boast “look at what I did.”
Why does this matter? A selfless leader will concede being in the spotlight by putting someone else in it. It matters because each individual who had skin in the game and gave it their all deserve credit. A selfless leader will gladly say, “Look at what we did!”
Selfless leaders initiate the conversation
The mark of maturity in a leader begins to take shape when he or she invites open and honest conversation instead of dodging it. Selfish leaders seek to control the message, the agenda, and in the end stifle creativity and deprive themselves of much needed feedback. If a leader’s head is buried in the sand the view for everyone else is not that pleasant. Instead, a selfless leader engages in conversation with his or her people and makes it a priority.
Why does this matter? A selfless leader understands that open communication is the life-blood of the organization. Disconnected people create disconnected organizations. Selfless leaders build bridges and get people talking because your survival depends on it.
Selfless leaders create the culture
Leaders, whether selfish or selfless, set the tone and create the organizational atmosphere. Through your growth and maturity as a leader you’ve come to understand that people buy in to your actions and attitudes before they embrace your vision. Better to be rejected as a leader because people did not embrace your vision than because they did not embrace your selfish leadership style.
Why does this matter? Selfless leaders understand that value is created where value is given. Selfless leaders know that when they help others succeed they succeed. It matters because when this is the underlying foundation of your organizational structure it creates an atmosphere where everybody wins, not just a few.
What do you say?
© 2016 Doug Dickerson
Doug Dickerson is an internationally recognized leadership columnist, author, and speaker. Read more at Dougdickerson.wordpress.com