It’s Not about You

I have to tangent into current events because of today’s news that the Trump White House was surprised that there were no leaks giving them advance notice of impending guilty pleas by George Papadopoulos and Mike Flynn. Presuming this is not “fake news,” this displays obliviousness about a leader’s obligations to a team.

A leader must always remember that it’s not about you. Forget this and you will lose support of your team. Many leaders’ egos persuade them to think that their leadership somehow makes them special and more equal than others and deserving of blind loyalty. While it’s true that a leader has some delegated power that gives them greater authority than others in some matters, that delegated power does not confer increased value as a human. All humans are equal and expect to be treated with dignity and respect.

When people on your team believe that you are using their loyalty and support for your own self-aggrandizement and that you will not reciprocate if and when they need you, then in effect you no longer lead a team in a common purpose. Instead, you possess the illusion of leadership of a group of self-interested people who will consider their own interests ahead of the team’s.

In short, if you make things about you instead of about the work, you will incentivize that same behavior among all but the most earnest and naive members of your team. When that happens, the team’s ability to work together in common cause will be diluted. Any disruption or crisis could cause the team to dissolve into parochialism.

A leader has a responsibility to set an example and especially to ensure that others don’t feel less than. In fact, part of your role is to inspire others to have confidence in themselves, connect to their power, and be on equal footing as human beings.

Overt self-aggrandizing behavior, as with Harvey Weinstein or Donald Trump, is one way to signal that you cannot be trusted to think about the needs of others on your team. But even more subtle indicators can send the same message. For example, CEOs and other senior executives who are rewarded with generous compensation packages and perks disconnected from corporate performance and exponentially out of proportion to how others in the corporation are compensated, e.g., John Stumpf, exude the stench of self-interest and can inspire quiet cynicism among the rank and file.

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