Being called selfish is a great insult. We value self-sacrifice and venerate those who put others needs before their own. So why don’t we see a bit more self-sacrifice from our leaders? Are they not in office to serve us? That may be true for some leaders but I see a lot more who seem to think that they are in office for us to serve them. Not much self-sacrifice going on in the corporate boardrooms or in our financial institutions!
Before I get too carried away with corporate greed there is a balancing act to consider here.
Let me start with the idea of service. I was an Army officer many years ago and was introduced to the idea of “Serve to Lead” at Sandhurst. My priorities were Country, Army, Soldiers and then me. In reality the Country and Army bits felt very distant and my focus was making sure my soldiers had what they needed. In the field, they ate first and I had what was left. This way of working became part of me. I didn’t have to learn behaviours. I simply followed my conscience because it felt right. When I left the Army I didn’t see anything like the same concern for others in the corporate world.
Climbing the greasy pole seemed to be a way of claiming power rather than an opportunity to serve.
The ideas of Servant Leadership were well described by Robert Greenleaf and his book is still well worth reading. However, there are a few traps that the ‘servant’ can fall into.
- Needing to be needed. For some the feelings associated with being “needed” are so strong that they will do what it takes to be wanted. On the surface their actions look like self-sacrifice, but in reality they are about feeding their own egos.
- No one else is competent. There are managers who seem to take the whole world on their shoulders. They complain a bit but secretly find it hard to believe that anyone else can do things as well as they can. They do so much and in the process deprive others of the chance to grow.
Leaders who never take a holiday are no good to anyone
Even if a leader is able to serve others for all the right motives, they still need to look after themselves. They need to eat, sleep and replenish their energies just like everyone else. In fact it is more important that they are functioning well because they are in a leadership role. Leaders who never take a holiday are no good to anyone. If this means enjoying some privileges then I haven’t got a problem.
So what are we left with?
A fully conscious leader recognises that leadership is a privilege with great responsibility. They understand that being of conscious service to others is their reason for being. They do this for the benefit of the greater good not their own ego’s needs. They also recognise that from time to time they must be a little selfish to ensure they are not depleted of energy. This is a balancing act that they know instinctively how to put into practice. A Conscious Leader knows deep down that their service has allowed others to grow, work productively and make things better for all of us. I suspect this is a greater reward than all the cash you can throw at them.
If you resonate with these ideas please look at our Conscious Leader programmes.