A servant leader gets results and serves those she leads. In military parlance, a servant leader is responsible for accomplishing his mission and for the welfare of his soldiers. I aspire to servant leadership, and I admire greatly those who succeed as servant leaders.
But I have come to believe that a great servant leader must also be a bit selfish.
Let me begin with my definition of "selfish." My Webster's New Dictionary of the English Language defines selfish as "excessively or exclusively concerned with one's own well-being." That's a bit harsh for my tastes. When I use the word in this post, it means,
"investing in one's own well-being, in order to build a strong foundation and reserves with which to help others."
[If you have a better word for this concept, please share it in the comments section below.]
I'm talking about loving yourself and caring for yourself first, in order to give you the strength and the stamina to care for others.
Without caring for yourself first, you will likely run out of steam - burn out - long before you have run out of people to help.
Think of yourself as a bridge. You can continue to carry cars and trucks and busses across the river only as long as you care for your structure. Scrimp on maintenance, and eventually you will fall down. And just like the tragic bridge failure in Minneapolis, you may take others down with you.
Although folks would have steamed about it at the time, I suspect those who suffered through that bridge collapse now wish it had been better taken care of. When you take time to care for yourself, you may hear complaints from some of those you serve. But you will likely be able to serve more for longer because you took that time.
Here are three things you can do now to be a little more selfish:
- Learn to say, "no" when a new request will keep you from caring for yourself. Just try it and see what happens.
- Know what you want, and practice saying it to folks.
- List seven things you really want. Over the next week, figure out how to get one of those things each day.
For more ideas, see The Portable Coach: 28 Sure Fire Strategies For Business And Personal Success by Thomas J. Leonard.
[Photo from Flikr - Poppyseed Bandits]