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How to Avoid being a Selfish New Leader

Morale was low and the boss was blaming them.

Martin (name changed) was never wrong. He’d won a bunch of awards working in one of the most difficult situations in the country. He knew his way worked well. Now as a team leader, he was going to show everyone how to replicate his success. He’d just been promoted and he was going to show them how he did it. He was confident if they did it his way, they would win. But, despite his plan, the team struggled.

Unfortunately, Martin didn’t adapt when he saw the team struggling. He just pushed harder and began demanding the team do things his way. As the months went by, Martin got more frustrated and morale on the team got worse. Martin was frustrated because he was working longer hours than his peers. He was doing everything he could to get more out of his team. But morale on the team was low because the team felt like failures. And their boss was blaming them.

FYI - I was Martin. I was a brand new leader. I was also a selfish leader.

We define Selflessness as:

Putting the needs of others before our own needs, desires, or convenience.

How was I a selfish new leader?

  1. I was always concerned about what my peers thought about me. We were performing badly, and my peers knew who was leading the team. Therefore, I worked hard at making sure everyone knew I was working hard.

  2. I made sure everyone knew I was working hard. If we weren’t doing well, I was going to be sure everyone knew it wasn’t because of my lack of effort. I’d mention that my day started before sunrise and I’d take pride in the fact that I sent emails after hours and on weekends.

  3. I failed to recognize the importance of other people’s time. I would call teammates after hours to check in on them. I would send emails after dinner and ask for a response ASAP. Of course, when someone wakes up and sees the boss sent an email asking for a response ASAP, that person is going to start checking email at night. When a boss says” ASAP,” that means it’s urgent. If the boss is working after hours, the expectation is that we all need to work after hours.

My insecurity about my own performance made me a selfish leader. I was more worried about how I looked to others than I was for my team. My focus was on myself and my reputation. I was being a selfish leader instead of a selfless leader who focuses on the people they are called to lead.

For me, it was my own need for recognition and validation. I was insecure and needed other people to know I was doing everything I could to change our situation. Looking back, my priority in those times was not to help the team to succeed. My priority was really all about how I appeared to others.

Fortunately, I realized that and made a conscious decision to be others-focused. My priorities shifted to what the team needed versus what I needed to look good to others.

When my priorities shifted from me to others, that team began to hit its numbers and later became one of the highest performing teams in the company. It all began with the leader deciding to be selfless.

Dig Deep Questions:

  • Who is the most selfless leader you have ever worked with?

  • What did they do that you can emulate?


Here is a quick assessment that will take you 5 minutes to figure it out. Nobody will ever see your results but you.

Warning: If you are not going to be honest with yourself this is a worthless assessment.

To take the assessment use the QR code above or go to

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