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And Your Point Is?

Feedback is truly a gift. Last night my daughter said to me, “just what is the point of your blog exactly, Mom?” In case you have the same question, I offer this answer.

I want to challenge you to re-think your approach to leadership. Or perhaps, come to a point of view on why you lead. For some of you it may be for the very first time.

Power & Authority

The business leaders of my generation have been an embarrassing bunch. Their model for leadership can be summed up as “it’s all about me.” They strive for the highest position available to them. They use their position to wield power over others. They seek recognition and rewards for themselves. And they do whatever it takes to reach their personal goals, with disregard for the impact on others. This is the leadership model celebrated in our culture. These are the leaders on the covers of our business magazines. Think Donald Trump and you’ll have the right picture in your mind.

“Every leadership position has power and authority. The question is, how will you use it for yourself, or for others?”

Achieving The Win

I’ve discussed this notion with a lot of leaders. They quickly acknowledge that they have experienced leaders who are self-absorbed, and they abhor such a leader and the work environments they create. Then they say the most interesting thing. “I am not that type of leader. I am an achievement driven leader. I just love the thrill of the win.” I call this the athlete’s response. Generally these leaders have played a competitive sport in high school or college, or maybe their competitions were for straight As in school. Either way, this model is best summed up as “It’s all about the win.” The leader chases stretch goals, they run hard towards them, and they drive the team to perform. Their psyche requires a win. Everything is scored.

“Every leader must achieve. I believe performance and competence are character traits of great leaders. The question is who is the win for you, or for your team?”

Get Over Yourself

This brings me to the alternative leadership model. I’ve dubbed it Get Over Yourself. My blog is to convince you that when you stop leading for yourself and your own outcomes, you start being a great leader with superior performance results. For you skeptics, there is research that confirms my point – three long view studies that prove when you lead for the sake of others you deliver superior financial performance results.

Said another way, you cannot be the top performing leader you aspire to, until you ditch being self-centered. And it is simple to explain. No one else is inspired and motivated to follow you because of your personal ambitions. Followers are inspired by leaders who help them grow and reach their goals and potential.

The purpose of my blog is to ask you to explore a model of leadership where you serve the people and the enterprise, not yourself. It’s the hardest, most counterculture, counter-intuitive idea about leadership. It remains fringe thinking in leadership thinking. Skeptics are many. Some say it is an outdated notion. I beg to differ.

Over the next several weeks, I will be describing what this kind of leadership looks like in action.

0 Responses

  1. Hi Cheryl,

    I enjoy reading your posts on leadership and appreciate you sharing your thoughts with all of us. As you pointed out in the beginning of this post: Feedback is a gift. Those (like myself) who hope to be a great leader both professionally and in other areas of life love getting advice and feedback from great leaders like yourself. This sort of feedback and advice is invaluable to those who appreciate (and are humbled by) what it takes to be a great leader. When I think of leaders, I do not think of Donald Trump and the likes, but I think of those who serve their community and provide others the strength to recognize their own potential. Thank you for doing your part in building a future with the right kind of leaders.

    1. Dear Lindsay, Thank you for your thoughtful remarks. I am passionate about our responsibility as leaders to develop the next generation of leaders. If not us, who? Someone invested in our development. Let’s pay it forward. Cheryl

  2. As I read your blog, I am reminded of my dad who had great power and never used if for his personal or family gain. There where times when I was a teenager when I would get mad with him for refusing to use his power. However, because of his commitment to using his power only for the good of the country and his team, I now completely understand your blog and firmly believe that it is the ultimate way of being. I only hope that I can continue to remember that unless the win is for the team it is not really a win.

    1. Dear Stephanie,
      Like you, I had an amazing father for a role model. He was always focused on doing “the right thing,” not leveraging power for personal gain. As you go forward in leadership, I encourage you to ask yourself this question each day: “Are the people better off because of my leadership?” This question, from Robert Greenleaf, is the ultimate test of whether we are leading for our own motives or for the sake of others. Servant leadership is the highest standard of leadership….and requires us each day to begin anew and aspire to be better for the sake of the people we serve.

  3. Cheryl,

    My short response is, “Love it!” and “Right on!” I’m reminded of what you said in our first meeting when you quoted the opening lines of the best selling, Purpose-Driven Life – “it’s not about you.”

    Looking forward to sharing the journey with you and appreciate that you both walk the walk and talk the talk.


  4. Thank you Cheryl – the above is a great post!
    Cash is the lifeblood of any business and many novice business leaders organize their actions to limit expenses and increase income which is important until they run into the “hard-stop” realization that nobody really wants to help you make more money. This is why mission, vision, values, standards and specs are so valuable because they are “shareables” and you can “magnetize” alignment, aid and support for your goals – if you offer alignment, resources and support to others via your leadership.

    1. Dear Chase, You are so right. Profits are required, but they do not provide the motivation your team needs to give you their best. The leader has to figure out what the team member’s strengths, values, and ambitions are…and then come along side and help them grow towards their potential. When you do this, you are investing in people and they notice the effort, and they believe you care about them. Towers and Watson recently published a study that concluded that 85% of people do not believe there is anyone at work that cares about them. What a loss of potential contributions to the enterprise. What a missed profit opportunity! All the best, Cheryl

  5. Hi Cheryl –

    I enjoyed your challenge for each of us to stop and ask ourselves why we lead. I recently had this experience myself when I led a volunteer team to do a TEDxWomen event here in Atlanta. In the face of setbacks and challenges, I had to stop and ask myself – “why am I doing this anyway?”…

    It’s a great question every leader needs to know how to answer when we face challenges, and particularly when we face failure.

    Here was my answer:


    Keep up the important work.


  6. I really enjoy your posts. Thank you for taking the time to share these points with us. It’s given me important insight as I continue to work on building my leadership skills.

  7. It’s so refreshing that you’re investing your valuable time in sharing what you’ve learned on your incredible leadership journey. Starting this blog is a testament to your commitment to serve and help others learn, grow and feel great about leading others. I was conversing with a friend this morning about how you work around an ineffective leader. It’s certainly possible but the individual and collective/organizational energy it zaps to do that clearly detract from the business results that could be achieved. Not to mention what it feels like to workaround a boss or peer who is self-absorbed. Looking foward to your continued insights!

    1. Karen, You’ve figured out the most important point of serving those you lead. By doing so, you access more of their capability and potential. You create a learning, growing, energized environment. You give people permission to take risks. And guess what, the business performance results are amazing! Thank you for participating in the dialog. Cheryl

  8. Good Morning Cheryl,

    I want to Thank You for kicking off our Gwinnett Leadership forum yesterday. Your perspective was great and just want we needed to launch our leadership groups.

    I have a balance struggle with taking my spiritual leadership from a convenient to deliberate effort. I feel great about my efforts in affecting my immediate sphere of influence (those that are put in my path everyday) but i have really struggled over the last couple of years at delivering on a deliberate strategy that requires a commitment outside of those put in my immediate path, which I think is my struggle to commit to anything else on top of running a small business and trying to be the best dad and father i can. Any thoughts are appreciated.


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