As executive coaches we sometimes must ask hard questions of leaders because their actions affect others – sometimes, many others. So, are you a selfish leader? We suspect most people will answer this question by saying, no. But before you answer too quickly we want to suggest that you give this question some thought.
We believe all leaders are vulnerable to selfishness. Here are a few examples of the vulnerabilities leaders must face that can be harmful to themselves and others:
- Leaders have power over others and can use that power to their personal benefit or agenda.
- Leaders must make decisions about their organizations and the people within their organizations. Sometimes these decisions may not be in the best interest of the organization or the people – only to the leader or a particular set of leaders within the organization.
- Leaders typically earn more money than others and this financial benefit may influence their actions; jockeying for position, playing organizational politics over working with integrity, and a host of other actions that can influence a leader’s actions to gain the best monetary position.
- Leaders typically get a lot of attention. Sometimes this attention can puff up a leader’s ego and this desire for attention can become addicting and ultimately harm self and others.
- Most leaders typically have a need to be right. Thus, if faced with opposing opinions they may not listen to better alternatives or differing ideas. This need to be seen as right can be detrimental to the organization and its people especially if major decisions turn out to be wrong. Additionally, this mentality can create divisiveness within the organization.
- All leaders are motivated by something. It is when wrong motives (prestige, greed, power, ego, etc.) influence a leader’s actions and behaviors that can do harm to the organization and its people.
You can probably think of other ways leaders are vulnerable or motivated to harmful selfishness and self-interest. Unfortunately we see selfish leaders in far too many organizations. This is why we have the Renew Leadership website so we can help leaders avoid these detrimental behaviors and likewise, help those who genuinely desire effective leadership excellence.
Now back to the question: Are you a selfish leader? We challenge you to look for harmful vulnerabilities in your thinking and actions. We are all tempted to be selfish in one way or another in the course of life and it takes courage to act consistently with integrity in every facet of leadership, including how we lead ourselves.