When I started my leadership journey, I made the mistake of thinking leadership was about getting results through others. I believed it was about motivating people to work hard. I believed it was about having good processes and strategies that “my people” would follow. I was wrong. There is just one thing about leadership every leader should know. Leadership is about caring enough about people to serve them selflessly.
Organizations can be so focused on results they forget why they exist, or perhaps they never understood the right reason for being. Some organizations believe they exist to make money, build a successful business, and make owners rich. Others don’t have these core values but operate in a manner consistent with them. They do so because they have adopted the business model built to honor those values. Both do business the wrong way. Their leadership is flawed.
Business shouldn’t exist for the sole benefit of the owner, and leaders shouldn’t lead for their own benefit. When I led people from the perspective of getting them to accomplish my objectives through processes and motivation, I wasn’t leading them. I was using them. I wanted my boss to see my results and reward me. Even when I promoted someone, I did it because it motivated them, and I got more output from them.
I don’t dislike people. I value them deeply. But in those days, I valued myself more. I was glad to see others become successful, but I prioritized own success. It is a common trap into which young leaders and businesses fall, but it is one from which we must extricate ourselves. If you wonder if you are in that trap, here are some questions to ask yourself:
- Am I willing give up time and money so that those I lead can have more?
- Am I holding someone back from promotion because I don’t want to give up their skills?
- Would I advocate for a team member to be promoted above me?
- When people make mistakes, is my first instinct to protect myself or to take the blame?
There are other questions we could ask. Maybe you can think of one. If so share it with us in the comments. The bottom line is leaders put people first, not results. Leaders are driven by a desire to make the lives of others better. (Tweet This) They aim at results designed to help people. The results aren’t the end. They are a means to the end. Leaders and businesses that make the greatest difference and leave a memorable legacy value people first and run their businesses congruent with that value. How are you doing? Are you leading people or are you using them?