Dr. Kent Ingle: THIS is the toughest leadership lesson any manager can learn

The best, and sometimes the toughest, lesson leaders can learn is that great leadership isn’t about you.

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If you want to bring about change and build a legacy, you need to think about others more than you think about yourself.

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Generosity -- at every level -- will shape how you view others and how others view you. This is something that requires a genuine and sincere effort on all fronts.

If your end game is just to boost yourself -- your power, position or prestige -- then people will view you with that in mind. If your end game is to help others grow, learn and develop, then people will be drawn to you. People may not always realize it at first, but time and opportunities have a way of surfacing everyone’s true intentions.

I met with a new manager recently who was frustrated that his team wasn’t falling in line with his vision and plan. I listened to him describe his situation for nearly an hour. When he stopped talking long enough to listen, I took the opportunity to share some observations with him.

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I explained that throughout his entire explanation, he had been placing himself at the center of the dialogue. (This is the toughest lesson in leadership; it’s not about you.) I understood his perspective on the issue but knew very little about his team’s perspective.

It’s a trap many leaders fall into. You spend so much time thinking and planning that you forget the humanity that exists within every team. Everyone wants to feel heard, valued and considered. After all, the point of leadership is to develop new leaders, not grow your followers. The more you focus on replicating leaders, the more followers you will have.

Here are five tips to increase the value you place in others:

  1. See every person as a human being first. The people around you are not resources or merely full-time equivalents. They are people. They have feelings, families and hopes for the future. When we remember this, we tend to treat people like we want to be treated.
  2. Assume everyone wants to grow and accomplish big things. You are not where you are today just because of your knowledge, skills and creativity. You are a product of the people who mentored you. Seek to do the same for others.
  3. Think about others’ needs more than you think about your own. Consider the perspective of other people more than you consider your own. Your decisions impact others.
  4. Look for ways to set people up for a win. When you crossed the line into leadership, it became less about what you can do and more about how you can help others accomplish great things. Always keep people at the forefront of your mission.
  5. Encourage others through the losses. No one likes to lose, but failure is a part of success. Don’t just be there to celebrate when they win, but be there to encourage them when failures occur.

The foundation begins with how you view others. Do you see the people around you as a means to an end? Or do you view them as an opportunity to invest in your own future gain? While this point may seem simple, it can’t be overlooked. It will seep into every conversation and interaction you have. Ultimately, it will fundamentally shape how you choose to interact with others and impact how they interact with you.

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When you choose to live a lifestyle that is focused on others, you’ll be amazed at how your life will be enriched. You will also be amazed at how this shift in focus will increase your overall work culture.

It’s not about reaching the office with the best view, making the big bucks or striving to have it all.

Leading is your opportunity to invest in the potential for change by advancing the people around you.

Dr. Kent Ingle is the president of Southeastern University. He is the author of several leadership books and host of the "Frameworks Leadership" podcast.

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