Nelson Mandela once said, ’What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.’ This observation led me to contemplate what kind of leader I am, above and beyond the responsibilities I have or tasks I need to complete. Most books I’ve read and conferences I’ve been to on leadership focused on changing behaviour with ’10 steps to better leadership’ and so on. But for me, leadership is a heart issue because I believe that your motives determine your actions.

One of the most damaging leadership traits I’ve seen is self-interest. We all know the kind of manager who gives a little but takes a lot. These types of leaders put their own agenda, status and gratification ahead of those they lead. Management guru Ken Blanchard highlights tendencies of self-centred leadership so we can assess ourselves:

  • How do you handle feedback? Self-centred leaders are insecure, possessive over their domains, and more concerned about their own image than that of the business or other people. Ask yourself how well you handle negative feedback and if your biggest fear is not failure, but losing power and position.
  • Do you plan well for succession? Self-centred leaders don’t see their leadership position as a season. You can gauge this by looking at how well they prepare others to take their place when the time comes. Are you training and equipping others beneath you?
  • Do you find it difficult to acknowledge another person’s idea as better than your own? Self-centred leaders are proud, demand attention, and take all the credit. They tend to treat people based on job titles rather than on respect. Winning and losing become the only criteria they value and character becomes an option.

Ken Blanchard notes that self-centred leaders look into the mirror to find success and out of the window for the cause of failure. Let’s be sensitive to these tendencies and self-aware enough to recognise any of them in ourselves. Take some time to reflect on your leadership and analyse your motives. Sometimes what’s needed is not just a change of mind but a change of heart.

Author: Brett Tromp CA(SA) is CFO of Discovery Health