Because Selflessness is a habit, we can learn to care about the people we lead.
“You can tell he really cares about people.” My son shared this with me after we had dinner with my West Point classmate, Mike and his wife. Mike spent the majority of the evening asking my son, Jake, questions. They covered everything from Jake’s career goals to college football thoughts. Mike didn’t ask the questions in order to set up an opportunity to give his own opinion. He quizzed Jake because he truly cared about what Jake had to say.
Mike’s example has stuck with me. He is one of my oldest and most loyal friends. He has always cared about people. Even when we first met at age 19, Mike had a way of building trust and loyalty. But, he has taken this skill to another level. He not only cares emotionally about others, he has learned how to actionably show that he cares as well. What’s his key? He doesn’t care as much about himself.
Most of us care too much about ourselves. This becomes evident in our conversations with others. For many leaders, we are wired that way. For whatever reason, we want to be first to speak. We want to make sure our opinions are known. And, we want conversations to go our way. But, we can overcome this with some practice.
We can learn to care about the people we are called to lead. Why? Because Selflessness is a habit. Each time we put the needs of others before our own needs, desires or convenience, we complete a character rep. Just like working out, we strengthen our muscle each time we do a rep. Each time we exercise Selflessness, we take another step closer to being a selfless person—even if we were originally wired differently.
The Selflessness reps Mike practiced in his conversation with Jake, are things we each can do. Mike modeled the fact we should:
Ask questions about what other people care about.
Listen to other’s answers and follow up with another question about them.
Lean in, make eye contact and acknowledge opinions.
Keep our focus on others and not turn the spotlight on ourselves.
Selflessness doesn’t require me to think less about myself, it just requires me to think about myself less. As leaders, we can all follow Mike’s lead and do a better job at demonstrating the fact we care. We may not be wired that way, but Selflessness is a habit we all need to develop through exercise.
Next time you speak to someone, do Mike’s workout—practice his character reps. Each time you do, you demonstrate you care more about the other person than you do about yourself. This is the type of person who leaves an impact. This is the type of leader people want to follow and the type of parent their children want to be around. This is a Leader of Character.
Dig Deep Questions:
When you are one-on-one with someone, who does most of the talking?
Today, who can you practice your character reps with and demonstrate the fact you care?
Making a shift towards taking responsibility and living with Selflessness is a lifelong journey. We want to partner with you as you practice the habit of Selflessness daily, which is why we have created our Habits of Character Action Guides.
The Selflessness Action Guide offers you a month of daily, interactive training complete with a daily reading, dig deep questions, weekly processing guides and instructions on how to use the guide both individually and with your team. The Selflessness Action Guide is now available here.
We are behind you, championing for you, your teams and your organizations as you become the leader you wish you had. We want to come alongside you as you grow to confidently answer “yes” to the question, “Would you follow you?”