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Leaders Don't Multitask People

We cannot consider ourselves selfless if we prioritize the tasks on our “to do” list before the people we are called to lead.

I remember two bosses of mine – Barry and Samuel. I liked working for both of them. They were good people and very good at their jobs. While I would run through a wall for Samuel, with Barry I always held something back. In retrospect, the difference was in the time they spent with me. They both always claimed to be there for me and to be 100% engaged with my team and my own development. But, their behaviors proved that Samuel was truly a selfless person and that Barry had priorities other than me.

Barry was a multi-tasker. The problem was, I knew I never had his full attention. I could hear him typing on his computer while we were speaking on the phone. When we were together, he would glance at his computer screen or his phone. He would even yell out the door to someone passing by his office while I was in the middle of a sentence. His approach always made me feel as if I was just another task he needed to take care of each time we spoke.

Samuel always shut his computer or silenced his phone when we spoke. He looked me in the eye and asked me questions that really challenged me to think about my own solutions. He took the time to ask how I was doing and remembered to ask about my family at the beginning or the end of every interaction. His last question was usually the same: “Can I move any obstacles out of your way today?”

Who would you rather follow Barry or Samuel? Now ask yourself: Would you follow you?

Exercising Selflessness is inconvenient. In fact, we are not being selfless if we only pay attention to other people’s needs when it is convenient for us. By definition, Selflessness is inconvenient. We can’t consider ourselves to be selfless if we are not putting people in front of the tasks on our to do list. We can’t multitask people and expect them to be committed and trust our leadership. Barry and Samuel are two good people who I responded to very differently.