Developing a Selfless Leadership MindsetWritten By: Dr. Kent Ingle

When President John F. Kennedy was elected, the American people experienced uncertainty over the nation’s future as they faced the Cold War and socio-economic unrest.

In his inaugural address, Kennedy told the nation, “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.”

This simple phrase served as an inspiration to many and is just as powerful today – but why?

Kennedy knew how important it was to shift the people’s focus. Instead of staying fixated on their fears and looking to the government to fix the situation, the American people were reminded that they could personally make a difference for the good of their nation.

As leaders, it can be easy to become focused on our own best interests. We can start to see everything through a lens of self-preservation or personal gain. Our dreams of improving our organizations can quickly become a fixation on what promotions we might get or how we might bolster our reputation. What starts with good intentions can quickly become a spiral of self-promotion and self-defensive strategies that ultimately lead to an unhealthy leadership mindset.

A selfless leadership mindset does not disregard a leader or their company’s interests. Instead, selfless leader considers how their actions can benefit others. They invite their team into the conversation of how they can improve as leaders and how their organization can grow.

A selfless leadership mindset can enable you to create a stronger, more cohesive team that works together to achieve a common goal – and it starts with taking intentional, practical steps.

Here are five ways to start developing a selfless leadership mindset.

  1. Check-in on your team. In the busyness of daily operations, it can be easy to focus on what needs to get done and how it is getting done, forgetting the well-being of your team. Take a few minutes each day to talk with your team members and ask how they feel about the current projects or how they’re doing personally. Showing genuine interest in their welfare will help your team know you care and help you remember the why behind your leadership.
  2. Look out for your team’s best interests. Ask your team. Ask for their thoughts and keep your whole team and organization’s best interests in mind. Consider the ramifications of your decisions and how they will affect your team.
  3. Ask for honest feedback. Make a point to ask your team how you’re doing, how they think their projects are going or what things could be done better. Create space for them to share their concerns one-on-one, via email, or through anonymous surveys. Actively seeking feedback will show your team you value their thoughts and help you evaluate how you are doing as a leader.
  4. Listen to the critique. When your team does share their feedback or concerns, don’t immediately jump to the defensive. Practice listening with an open mind and ask what steps you can take to improve – then take action. Showing your team, you are receptive and responsive to criticism will demonstrate that you listen and are trustworthy.
  5. Trust your team. Feeling like you need to do everything yourself can be easy to do. To become a selfless leader, you’ll need to trust in others and their abilities. Practice delegating tasks and responsibilities to your team members and trust them to complete them without micromanaging. Giving your team tasks is a great way to show you trust them and will help take the emphasis off yourself.

Creating a selfless leadership mindset requires deliberate steps and takes daily practice. Refocusing your leadership approach can take time – but don’t give up. The more you practice serving others, the more you will grow as a leader. When your team knows you genuinely care for them and have their best interest in mind, they’ll become a stronger, more cohesive team who will work alongside you for the common good.

About Dr. Kent Ingle

Dr. Kent Ingle is the President of Southeastern University, a public speaker, and a recognized thought leader. Ingle is passionate about creating lasting change in higher education and setting up organizations for success. He is the author of The Modern Guide to College and host of the popular Framework Leadership podcast. For more information about Dr. Kent Ingle, please visit www.kentingle.com.


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