Are Self-Serving Leaders an Oxymoron?
Do you consider yourself to be a leader?
If so, what makes you think you are a leader, and if not, what keeps you from owning the role of a leader?
Leaders have a multitude of traits and characteristics that show up in many different ways. I firmly believe that we are all leaders and that we each make a difference in others’ lives when we share our empathy, compassion, and wisdom.
I have observed leaders for nearly all of the 40 years of my career and have found that they seem to fall into two distinct categories-self-serving and serving others.
The self-serving ones are driven by greed and consumption, while the ones who serve others are motivated to generosity and sacrifice.
All too often, leaders who put profits before people are self-serving and line their own pockets with more money than is reasonably necessary to hoard. We can find ample examples of self-serving leaders in politics and big business. Both have their fair share of those who are in it for themselves.
The leaders that put people first are far more likely to be in it for serving others. They value the humans that they are in a relationship with and seek to support them. We can find these leaders in non-profit organizations and entertainment. Those leaders who can give of themselves are making a difference in the lives of those they serve.
Leaders who care about other people and their feelings when they are being challenged by life are focused on serving others versus themselves. More than ever, leaders need to express empathy, whether it is related to the COVID-19 Pandemic or the recent destructive winter storms.
Naturally compassionate leaders show those who are not the ways to be more concerned for others than themselves. It is possible for us to be more concerned and kind towards others when we have the mindset of serving them versus exploiting them.
The wisdom that leaders share with others is a critical part of serving them. We all have had experiences that have made us stronger and more resilient; the wisdom that comes from those experiences is precious in serving others.
This article was born from the observations that I have this week during one of the worst winter storms to hit Texas. I watched as leaders chose their lane-serving themselves or serving others.
When I watched an elective official model entitlement and privilege for his daughters in the name of being a good dad, I knew I was seeing a leader focused on his own needs. He did not consider the millions who were struggling for the basics that keep us alive in frigid temperatures without power or water. Social media exploded with images of him fleeing his civil servant duties, and the outrage ensured. No amount of politicized apologies should exonerate his error in judgment.
I watched with glee as a business owner in Houston opened his furniture stores to the city’s residents who were without power and water. I saw the relief on the faces of those who were inside the store with access to heat, water, and food. I have observed him grow his business over the past nearly 40 and his generosity for the city that gave him such fantastic success is exemplary.
If you believe you are a leader and want to make a difference, please consider giving generously to serve those who have been impacted. Local food banks or pantries, local youth homeless shelters, or LGBTQ support centers would greatly benefit from your gift.
I am confident that all of these organizations have leaders who would be overwhelmed by your gifts.
Leaders are a part of the solutions that are needed to solve the challenges no matter their magnitude. Every leader can and does make a difference in the lives of others when they serve them selflessly.
With much gratitude.
The story was previously published on The Good Men Project.
About Phil Bohlender
Phil’s corporate career spanned more than 35 years working for 7 companies in 2 industries on 5 continents. As a result of his passion for learning and sharing his knowledge and experience about business and leadership with others, he is a powerful and proficient contributor to organizations of all sizes. Phil’s career experiences include achieving successful outcomes in a variety of leadership roles with some very prominent Fortune 100 companies.