I view leadership as a journey. Like most journeys it has its highs and lows. Sometimes I am working on all cylinders and practicing great leadership techniques. Other times, I struggle and find myself practicing more of the “don’ts” than the “do’s” of leadership.
I suspect most leaders have similar experiences.
Like most worthwhile things in life, I find when I’m struggling with leadership I need to go back to the basics – to remember that leadership isn’t about ME – it’s about others!
If you think about most great and sustainable leaders throughout history, they have one thing in common. It’s not that they were the smartest people of their time. They didn’t have the most resources at their disposal. They weren’t always the most outgoing or had magnetic personalities. The one thing they all have in common is that, as leaders, they served others, not themselves.
Given how true it is that the best leaders are selfless leaders, it amazes me how little is written about being a selfless leader. If you google “selfless leadership”, the second and third items are from 2015 and 2011 respectively. That’s incredible!
Click here to read an interesting post on selfless leadership.
Click here to take Inc. magazine’s test to see if you’re a selfless leader.
Personally, I think leadership can be learned. How do you become a selfless leader? Here’s a few things (You won’t do these all the time. When you catch yourself falling short – try again).
• In every situation, put others before yourself. Recently I had an opportunity to take the day off for something we call Summer Friday’s. However, the person mainly responsible for answering phones in our office was on vacation. Rather than have someone else in our office come in on their day off, or have our customers call in to an automated system, I answered phones for part of the day. Doing so allowed others to focus on their jobs and gave me an opportunity to “walk a mile” in our receptionist’s shoes.
• Be positive, not negative – Encourage, don’t criticize. This can be a hard one for anybody. It’s not easy to always be positive. Truthfully, no one can do that. But staying positive especially during times of adversity and giving words of encouragement instead of criticism is the mark of a selfless leader.
• Taking time for others. A selfless leader ALWAYS makes time for others even when they don’t have time to give. We are all very busy in our lives. Time is our most precious resource. The best leaders find ways to give their time to others every time they need it. The people they lead aren’t “afraid” to ask their leader for help and appreciate it when their leader spends time with them without being asked. Back in the old days, some people referred to this as “MBWA” or “Manage by walking around.” For selfless leaders it’s more than that. It’s not just walking around but actually engaging with your team and giving yourself to them unconditionally.
• Be an active listener and a passive talker. This one is difficult for me. I, like many leaders, am a “talker.” I enjoy interacting with people. However, selfless leaders actively listen to others. They don’t just hear the words, but they also relate to them and engage with that person to help solve their problems or contribute to their goals. As a goal, leaders should listen 75% of the time and talk 25%. As a leader, I need to remind myself, as I do often, that listening is more powerful than talking. I try to be the last person to talk in a meeting or in a conversation so I can hear what everyone else is saying first and only contribute when I have something valuable to offer.
So why is selfless leadership important to associations? Associations are natural places for selfless leadership to be practiced and learned. By their very nature association leaders are volunteers putting the needs of others before themselves.
If you’re an association leader, you are already practicing some of these selfless leadership concepts.
If you’d like more information on being a selfless leader or if you’re interested in professional management for your association, please contact CM Services’ President and Head Coach, Rick Church at firstname.lastname@example.org