Notes from the scandals: True leaders are selfless
November 9th, 2011
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Bob Clarke: Leadership “is about the individuals and families who rely on you to act in their best interest.”
At least two more leaders appear to have had their legacy tarnished in the current 24/7 news cycle – one a presidential candidate and one a legendary football coach. One is in trouble for what he is alleged to have done, the other for actions he failed to take. But there’s a key lesson about leadership in these events, and the nature of the behavior is merely the symptom of a root issue: selfish leadership.
The best leaders, says Bob Clarke, CEO of Furst Group, are selfless, putting others first.
“I’ve had the opportunity to recruit and develop leaders since the early ‘80s,” Clarke said, “and have witnessed some outstanding executives. Leadership is all about having those you lead achieve things they themselves didn’t think possible.”
Leaders, said Clarke, need to remember that their actions don’t occur in a vacuum and can have a long-term and widespread impact.
“This is especially true in healthcare,” he said. “The ripples of your leadership can be a potent force for good in your community. It is about the individuals and families who rely on you to act in their best interest. They depend on you — at times, their lives or livelihoods depend on you. In healthcare, you see the results of your efforts outside of those you lead and often outside of the organization you lead.”
Col. Eric Kail, PhD, the course director of military leadership at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, wrote recently in the Washington Post that the best leaders earn their authority by their selflessness:
“Being selfless is one of the hardest things you’ll ever do as a leader, and it requires competence. … As leaders, we hold others – especially subordinate leaders – accountable. And yet we must be even more accountable to them. … Without regulation, we’re all vulnerable to leading selfishly.”
That is one reason, Clarke said, that the importance of leadership development throughout an organization cannot be underestimated. “It is common to mentor hard-working people in your organization until they are ready for a promotion,” he said. “But sometimes, we assume that they know how to lead and discontinue the training that made them ready for a move into an executive position in the first place. We need to train them how to lead, and to lead in a selfless manner that benefits our organization and our community.”