We often display a natural tendency to put our own needs before others'...This isn't necessarily a bad thing, though. As Psychology Today's Lisa Firestone notes, "Maintaining a certain regard for ourselves and engaging in self-compassion and self-care are actually fundamental to creating a good life for ourselves and the people who matter most to us."
Focusing on our own needs can protect us from burnout and other negative consequences. However, in the leadership world, this focus often crosses into a decidedly more selfish territory. In today's complicated workplace, if you don't put the needs of others before your own, you will lose in the long run. If losing in the long run isn't big enough, when you put the needs of others before your own as a leader you do two big things.
A leader who puts others first creates an uplifting and motivating team culture that people want to be part of. Anyone that is a parent understands this with ease. You are much more likely to get buy in when the child feels it's their choice versus doing something because someone else is telling them what to do.
This doesn't mean that you're going to become best friends with your employees but it does mean, you will be continuously engaged in making sure that each team member has the resources they need to perform their job effectively. It means you will create a safe environment where everyone feels valued and important.
When you show genuine care for your employees' needs, as opposed to an obsession with the bottom line, you will enjoy better retention rates and productivity as everyone buys into the team culture. When this happens the performance of the individual and the group goes up exponentially.
When a leader focuses on their own needs, they limit their influence. Focusing on the needs of others is just good business sense. This concept became clear during a recent email conversation with Geoffrey Leslie, president, and CEO of Screems.
"Affecting change on a level beyond profits is how businesses can make a lasting difference. For example, this is the goal behind our Major Appliance Power Station (MAPS), by helping communities enjoy clean energy with a household device. We want to have an impact for the greater good. As a business leader, your influence can and should extend to your employees, your customers, and your community. But this only happens if you put aside selfish motivations."
Leaders who put others first want to see them succeed. They understand that an employee's success doesn't threaten or diminish their position. Instead, it creates new opportunities for growth. Taking on the role of a coach or mentor may not directly benefit your career, but it can help a new employee improve their skills so they can become a stronger contributor to the team. While doing this isn't all that liberating of a feeling for most leaders, it's the right thing to do.
When you focus on fulfilling employees' needs, they will be better able to meet their responsibilities toward your customers, putting your team in a better position to reach its goals.
Putting others' needs ahead of your own may feel counterintuitive. But to become a successful business leader, it is a crucial trait that you will need to develop.
Start by getting to know your employees. Understand their challenges and concerns, as well as the things they're excited about. The more your team knows you care about them, the easier it will be to identify ways you can improve their experience in the workplace.
The simplest way to make a permanent shift is to start small. In LearnLoft's Ultimate Leadership Academy, I teach a simple daily habit to help our clients do this. It's called PTS, which stands for "Prepare to Serve." Anytime you change an environment, say to yourself PTS. Without much thought, your actions in the new environment will be focused more on those you are going to be spending time with versus your own self-interests.
As you begin to put this simple habit into practice, your ability to put your priorities as a leader will be put into proper perspective. When you focus on people, rather than numbers, you will be far better positioned to achieve the desired results.
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About the Author: John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company which exists to turn managers into leaders and create healthier places to work. John was named one of LinkedIn’s 2017 Top Voices in Management & Workplace and was awarded the 2017 Readership Award by Training Industry.com. John is also the author the upcoming book Building the Best: The Proven Leadership Framework to Elevate Others to Success and host of the “Follow My Lead” Podcast, a show that transfers stories and best practices from today’s leaders to the leaders of tomorrow. You follow him on instagram @johngeades.
John is the CEO of LearnLoft, author of, F.M.L. Standing Out & Being a Leader and host of the 'Follow My Lead' Podcast. He writes or has been featured on Inc.com, LinkedIn Pulse, TrainingIndustry.com, eLearningIndustry.com, CNBC Money, and more. John completed his education at the University of Maryland College.