Ask Not What Your People Can Do for You…

Early in their careers, young leaders tend to be concerned with self-advancement. They ask: what can others do for me? They spend the bulk of their time trying to get other people interested in their ideas and abilities. To this end, they trumpet their accomplishments and show off their knowledge. In short, they try to win others over by being impressive.

As they mature, leaders begin to understand that they will go farther by focusing first on the advancement of others. They ask: what can I do for you? Instead of trying to impress others, they search for ways to show how they are impressed by others. Their goal is to convince people of two simple ideas: 1) I care about you and 2) I want to help you.

One of the best ways to demonstrate that you are looking out for the interests of your teammates is to do something for them that they cannot do for themselves. Not only does this empower your people, it brings personal fulfillment to you. As John Bunyan said, “You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.” We’re designed to make a difference in the lives of others, and our own life becomes more meaningful when we do.

What to Do for Others That They Can’t Do for Themselves:

(1) Introduce Them to People They Can’t Know on Their Own.

As a leader gains influence with people, her personal network grows. One of the best ways leaders can open doors for others is by connecting them to potential mentors, coaches, or business partners.

(2) Take Them to Places They Can’t Go on Their Own.

When touring historic homes or museums, you’ll occasionally encounter a wing of the building that’s off limits to the public. Usually there’s a sign communicating that the area is for “authorized personnel only,” and the doors are locked to prevent people from entering. Aren’t you always curious what is in the restricted areas?

A good leader grants people access to places they otherwise cannot go. Practically, this may involve financial support, or setting aside money in the team budget so that people can attend conferences or participate in training experiences that they otherwise could not afford.

(3) Offer Them Opportunities They Can’t Reach on Their Own.

Figuratively, leaders put the cookies on the lower shelf. They place opportunities within reach of their people. This involves giving power to others. Leaders have authority that others lack; their position authorizes them to make decisions, exercise influence, and allocate resources. Instead of wielding power personally, they can delegate decision-making to others, give teammates a chance to lead meetings, or allow their people a greater role in the budgeting process.

(4) Share With Others Ideas They Don’t Possess on Their Own.

Young leaders cannot possibly learn everything they need to know from a textbook. Since they do not have experience, it’s important for them to borrow it from someone else. Perhaps the most precious resource a seasoned leader can share with the next generation is the wisdom gained through past experience in the form of a principle or proverb.

Thoughts to Ponder
As a leader, do I usually focus on others and their interests or on my own agenda?
What can I do for my teammates that they cannot do on their own?

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