Forgetting Self Entirely

True leadership, at work and at home, is about forgetting self.

Forgetting Self - Leaders

When we lead in a way that does not consider what is best for us, the benefits are great.
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I read an article recently on the Harvard Business Review entitled To Succeed, Forget Self-Esteem. A portion of the article stated:

A growing body of research, including new studies by Berkeley’s Juliana Breines and Serena Chen, suggest that self-compassion, rather than self-esteem, may be the key to unlocking your true potential for greatness.

It went on to define self-compassion in the following way.

Self-compassion is a willingness to look at your own mistakes and shortcomings with kindness and understanding — it’s embracing the fact that to err is indeed human. When you are self-compassionate in the face of difficulty, you neither judge yourself harshly, nor feel the need to defensively focus on all your awesome qualities to protect your ego. It’s not surprising that self-compassion leads, as many studies show, to higher levels of personal well-being, optimism and happiness, and to less anxiety and depression.

I have a suggestion for leaders that is far superior to self-esteem, self-compassion, or anything involving the self at all.

Forgetting Self Entirely

No, I am not suggesting some metaphysical disconnect with your being. I am suggesting a way of looking at our leadership in a manner that does not consider what is best for us…and as a result benefits us greatly.

Whom should leaders think of over themselves?

Here are 4 groups leaders should think of first

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1. Their team members.

A leader’s job, in the immortal words of Chris LoCurto, is to “make his team successful, not the other way around.” This was (and is) a total paradigm shift for me. I hire you. Your job is to…no, it doesn’t work like that. Forget what you (the self) needs or wants and focus on your team. I assure you the rewards for doing so will outweigh any sacrifices.

2. Their customers.

I’ve determined that what I think is best for me is often not what is best for the customer, but what is best for the customer usually ends up being best for me. Read that sentence again. When I make decisions on what I think is best for me, it is often not the best thing for the customers. Customers revolt. I make less money. But when I act with their interests first, forgetting self, I am usually rewarded.

3. Their family.

If you are a family leader (read: husband), you were put on this earth for one primary purpose: to lead your family. That means your wife and children if you have any. If you are a mother, your primary purpose is to lead your children. Business comes second. Period. I’m not suggesting that working hard is not necessary or diminishing providing for your family, but I am certain that working 80 hours a week when you can more than provide for them working 50 is just dumb.

4. Their vendors.

Yeah, I lost you on this one. I had you with team members, customers, and family…all cute and cuddly things that we want to serve, but vendors? Forgetting my needs and thinking of my vendors…that is how you want me to lead, Matt? If you are still reading now, I am sure it is out of sheer curiosity or sympathy, so here goes.

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The formula I gave for your customers works almost the same for vendors. What I think is best for me is often not what is best for a vendor, but what is best for the vendor often ends up being best for me too. I’m not suggesting rolling over and paying five times a fair price for a widget. I am suggesting that you forget self, if for only a moment, and see things from their perspective. Strike a fair deal that will last a lifetime, not a one-time deal that bankrupts a potentially loyal vendor and valuable asset.

It’s not easy to forget self. But I believe it could lead to a leadership revolution.

Can you think of a great leader who forgot about self? What benefits did it bring to him or her?

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  • Daniel Oster

    Yeah you lost me on #4. Wow.

    It makes total sense though. Dave Ramsey talks a lot about that.

    I’ve never had a leader who truly acted that way, but would love to work for one.

    Long time lurker, first time commenter by the way. Love your blog.

    • Sorry I lost you :)

      Yes Dave does talk about that. I think he talks about hiring from a vendor in EntreLeadership. He asked permission to interview the vendor’s employee first. THAT is class.

      “Long time lurker, first time commenter by the way. Love your blog.”

      LOL. Thank you. But long time is relative…only been here for a few months :)

      • I don’t lurk…I can cause much more trouble by commenting! Mwahahaha!! :)

        • Very true. You break…I mean…whatever. HAHA

          • No, no carry on Matt! I just came up with my new slogan “Skropp: Breaking hearts of women everywhere since 1984.” 😉
            Ha!! BOOM!!

          • (Enter an eye-roll from my wife here…) 😉

  • Opinionated overboard commenter here, maybe you’d prefer me lurking. :0) I love this post and would like to stick to my stolen quote “Don’t think less of yourself, but think of yourself less” As a leader it’s pretty easy to want the whole world to revolve around your great vision of something… rather than take a look at what it is your team and your family need from you.

    Bowlful of awesome today.

    • I stole your stolen quote and use it frequently. It truly is spot on.

      Thank you Lily!

  • Well said Matt. It’s that whole “walk a mile in another’s shoes” idea. It’s the only way to lead. But as leaders we are hard-wired to think that because we “wear certain shoes” then everyone that enters our realm must be wearing the same shoes, after all, we’re the leader…duh!

    Haha. Not so much.

    Great post my friend.

  • Servant leadership at its best! Love this post – full of great reminders – and yes, it’s important to treat your vendors well too. Good job Matt!

    • Thank you Carol!

      For the record, I’ve never actually done that part well…thinking of vendors first. It’s so hard. But I do believe it’s a great way to do business and will lead to many rewards.

      Did I mention that it is really hard?

    • “Servant Leadership” Well said!

  • I love it that you mention families of the team members. Just like your One-on-One (must read series), the more you can get to know them the easier it is to lead them through service. I find it very affective to send a card to a team members family of their accomplishments. That does take some extra effort to do that, but the benefits that you will reap are great.

    I love it Matt!

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