We've been featuring excerpts from the recently released e-book The Selfless Leader. Here is one from Dr. Jo Anne Lyon. Previous excerpts are from Jo Anne Lyon, Mark L. VincentDan Busby and Scott Rodin.



“Selfless leadership” is ethically leading others in the achievement of assigned goals and the greater good for the benefit of all others before oneself. “Self-centered leadership” is leading others in the achievement of assigned goals using ways and means that maximize the personal recognition and benefit of the leader over the institution and all others.

These leadership approaches are polar opposites in their focus, goals, strategies, ways, and means. Selfless leaders focus externally on enabling and achieving the success of the organization and people before their own personal success. In any endeavor, these leaders first ask themselves and their teams, “What’s the right thing to do here?” and then, “How best can we do it?” Accomplishing the goal or mission and doing it right becomes the team’s guiding and unifying focus. This type of selfless leadership grants freedom to every team member to take necessary action and removes all potential paralysis and doubt in the face of danger, risk and opposition. Ultimately, selfless leaders leave lasting and positive institutional accomplishments. They shape lives by their leadership and they earn an honored and emulated reputation going into the future.

....In contrast, when self-centered leaders face a mission or goal they ask, “What’s in it for me?” and “How can I best use others to accomplish it with the least personal accountability and risk?” The success of the mission, institution and team are secondary to the success of the leader. As a result, the self-centered leader is focused on controlling all team activities. They work to remain in the forefront of recognition and seek the credit from above. When criticism comes they deflect it to team members below. Looking good is more important than actually being good or accomplishing the good. Self-centered leaders produce an exhausting and slavish work environment. When the mission is over, virtually all credit goes to them and those who served under them are just happy they have moved on. I have seen that those serving under self-centered leaders resolve that no matter the cost, they will never work for that leader again. In the end, self-centered leaders become known for the people they really are.

They leave no lasting, positive accomplishments and those with whom they have served politely avoid them. When stories are told, these leaders are singled out as searing examples of what not to do and how not to lead.

....A selfless leader believes in absolute truths and knows right from wrong. They make truth and facts central to their lives, character, and leadership. In stark contrast, a self-centered leader sees truth as situationally dependent or morally relevant. Truth is flexible. As a result, they sow doubt and mistrust among those with whom they work. The only predictable truth is that their decisions and actions will always benefit them in some way. In contrast, selfless leaders, by choosing to speak truth, engender trust and can be relied upon by all those with whom they interact.

....Exercise courage. Selfless leadership is risky business. A leader will often have to stand in the moral or ethical breach and against the rising tide of counter-views and opinions to do what is right and necessary. Standing in the breach is always uncomfortable. It requires courage, which is esteemed as the one human quality that guarantees all the rest. Courage is often defined as “facing danger or risk without fear.” However in my life experience, I believe this definition is absolutely wrong. Instead, the true definition of courage is “facing danger or risk with your fears and doing the right thing anyway.”

Courage, acquiescence to evil and cowardice are all individual choices and a leader’s choices determine whether the future ends in victory, stalemate or defeat. Danger, fear and risk are always personal companions in selfless leadership. When you face them, it would be good to remember this true definition of courage and the quote by Major General later President Andrew Jackson, “One man with courage, makes a majority.”[1]

In contrast, a self-centered leader will always seek to curry favor and avoid any situation where they risk the displeasure of seniors or go against the rising tide of popular opinion. They “go along to get along” with no personal requirement for the exercise of principle or courage. Unlike self-centered leaders, selfless leaders face doubt, evil, injustice, fear, apathy or acquiescence by exercising courage and resolve to become a “majority of one”. One who stands in the breach and accomplishes needed change. As such a leader, your steadfast and courageous example will inspire and liberate others to do likewise.

-Tim Hanifen
[1] Jackson, Andrew. “One man with courage makes a majority”. 4 January 2015. http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/34843-one-manwith-courage-makes-a-majority
Mark L. Vincent
Post by Mark L. Vincent
March 25, 2015
I walk alongside leaders, listening to understand their challenges, and helping them lead healthy organizations that flourish.