Leadership for a Lifetime: Other-Centeredness

11/23/2015 12:49:27 AM

Has anyone ever done something nice for you that was so refreshing, it made your day? Maybe the person ahead of you at Starbucks paid for your coffee. A family member did your chores for you (without being asked). A friend brought or bought you dinner. It feels good, doesn’t it, when others go out of their way to express kindness to us?
And, it works both ways. When we’re the giver…we, too, share in the joy of the receiver. (As we enter the season of gifts, you’ll no doubt witness this firsthand!) It’s why the secret formula for a fulfilling life is: U>Me. It’s also why OTHER CENTEREDNESS is a hallmark of great leaders.
The principle of other-centeredness applies equally to our professional lives, even if it’s less commonly taught and practiced. Whether we’re business owners, department heads, managers, team leaders, coaches, teachers, or mentors, we will be placed in positions of influence and relationship. How will we approach them? Well, did you notice the emphasis on the word “them?” These kinds of leaders—both personally and professionally—are not self-centered; they’re other-centered.  For them, it’s not all about “me”; rather, it’s also and maybe even more about “others.” By empowering and encouraging people and setting them up for success, these leaders embrace a positive leadership lifestyle—and the results are remarkable.I had the great privilege of working for a company that modeled this to a “T.” Under the leadership of George and Jane Russell, Russell Investments put its people first. Not the owners. Not the customers. The people. George always said, “If you put the people first, they’ll take care of the customers. It doesn’t always work the other way around.” By doing so, the company won several state and national awards for being “the best place to work.” Having experienced this leadership culture myself, I can say it was like an extended family. (Remember I’m talking about work here!) And, during my tenure, we grew from a small investment firm of $1 billion of assets into a $220 billion global powerhouse! Putting employees first even helps the bottom line! “Earth to CEOs!”
Some years ago, researchers at Performance Advantage polled workers to identify what motivates them most on the job. Guess what they found out. Do you think it was fear? Money? Power? Promotions? Benefits? Nope. The top three motivators were: 1) being appreciated, 2) being in the loop and invited into decisions, and 3) having an understanding manager! All three are signs of other-centered leadership! And, they’re free!
What would happen if we all tried living for a week in an "other-centered" universe? In this universe others are not put in this world to serve our needs, so we cannot legitimately get frustrated by the elderly lady ahead of us at the store checkout who takes forever to put her change away, or the guy who cuts us off on the freeway. In this universe, we work in a cooperative spirit on the job (and in our families!) and are genuinely excited to see and help others succeed. In this universe, we endeavor to serve those we lead instead of the other way around.
The bottom line: Whether personally or professionally, the secret formula to life is: U > Me!