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Why every Leader needs to be selfish


Now before you jump to conclusions about the title, make sure you understand the perspective that I teach from. I believe the best and most influential leaders are those that are focused on having a transformative relationship with others, and not a transactional relationship.

I addressed this in my previous article, Transformational vs. Transactional Leadership. You will get a deeper understanding of the difference in that article.

What I’m referring to is the challenge that most leaders have in taking the time to take care of themselves. Sometimes a person’s strength can also be a weakness if unchecked. Having the capacity to do what’s best for others, and meet other people’s need is why you are such a great leader. But if unchecked, it can result in leaders getting burned out, and not able to lead effectively.

It’s okay to think of yourself, and what you need. Remember, being a leader is a role you have, but it is not who you are. Who you are is the reason why you are effective in your role. Failure to take care of yourself can negatively impact your capacity to lead effectively.

What are you producing?

One of my mentors, Dr. John Townsend recently taught some leadership principles from the analogy Jesus’ used when talking about a good tree producing good fruit. Many times we focus on the fruit or output. But we rarely think about the input that produces the fruit. A tree can only produce based upon the health of the soil around it. The healthier the soil, the more nutrients the tree will receive to produce.

The following is an excerpt from his Leadership Institute:

Leaders are tasked with challenges to move their organizations, families, and groups toward growth and high performance. They focus their energies and their minds toward bearing good fruit, whether that be a healthy marriage and family, job performance, or life balance and happiness.

Successful leaders, who want to be fruitful, understand that any good fruit must come from good “soil”, where there are healthy nutrients. Instead of looking only to results, they must look deeper into their lives and their environment and make sure they and their organization are planted in a healthy setting, and that they are surrounded by the right nutrients in the soil.

One of the primary “soil” needs of the leader is relationship.

Everyone, including leaders, is designed to receive good nutrients from others, as well as provide them for others:

“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms” (1 Peter 4:10)

In fact, with the demands and challenges facing leaders, they must pay even more attention to having their needs met, to be fueled up to the task.

All too often, leaders focus on meeting the needs of others, and neglect to make sure their own needs are met. More than that, leaders are often disconnected from even knowing about and experiencing their own relational needs, for several reasons:

  • The task orientation of their responsibilities
  • The pressures they face
  • Having to pay attention to the needs of others
  • Concerns about needing to be strong for others
  • Their own significant relational experiences
  • Concern about letting others see their needs

The problem is that this ultimately contributes to internal weakness and lower levels of functioning. So to be at high capacity, and at their best for challenges that face them, leaders need to learn how to identify, experience and meet their own needs, in the context of relationships with others.

Reflective Question:

  • Do you consistently neglect your needs for the sake of meeting the needs of others? If so, when and how do you recharge?

VISIT to connect with Freddie and find out more about his work building leaders in the community.

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