Leadership Thought #360 – Think About The Greater Good

May 29, 2012

Free Man's Hand in Shallow Focus and Grayscale Photography Stock Photo

It is easy to get caught up in your own world.  However, leaders need to elevate their thinking to incorporate the bigger picture.  The needs of the organization must take priority over any one person’s agenda.   You may sometimes have to sacrifice what you want or desire as an individual for the greater good.

A leader is only a leader if he/she has followers.  You need employees, clients, vendors, professional advisors, and a supportive family.  No leader is ever successful alone.   At some point, other people must decide to buy into your agenda and align their own interests accordingly.  They need to believe that they will be better off for having followed you.  What rallies people is the sense of being part of something bigger and more important than simply individual gain.  All of us want to have a sense of doing work that matters.  We want to do good things for the right reasons in a safe environment and not just to line someone else’s pockets.  The best business relationships have never just revolved around money but have a deeper and richer win-win component to them.

I am fortunate that I work with many people who get this concept.  During the most recent recession, they made great personal sacrifices to keep the company doors open and maintain as many jobs as possible for their staff.  They sacrificed their own personal wealth, often accumulated over the course of a career, to self-fund operations and fulfil debt obligations.  Instead of living up to the unfair and often inaccurate stereotype of the uncaring businessperson, they genuinely cared about doing the right thing for their people, business partners and clients.   They also clearly understood that loyalty is a two-way street.

I often worry that we are beginning to value the wrong things in society:

  • fame over actual talent and ability
  • physical appearance over character
  • wealth over making a positive contribution to society
  • things over people
  • disagreement over compromise
  • Judgment without understanding
  • pleasure and gratification over discipline and commitment
  • blind patriotism over an honest assessment of reality
  • party loyalty over national priorities
  • present day gain at the expense of the future
  • individual reward (and winning at all costs) over collective benefit

We all take our cues from the leaders that surround us.  When good people stand by, and do-nothing terrible things tend to happen.  Leadership is about doing what is right not what is convenient or personally rewarding.  It’s about elevating the dialogue around what’s most important.  It’s about personal responsibility and professional humility.  It’s about leading by example.  It’s about the greater good and focusing on doing things of consequence and significance for others not just ourselves.