Selfish or Selfless Leader?

selfless leadership teresa devine co
selfless leadership teresa devine co

At a glance, it’s pretty easy to read the phrase “selfless leader” and quickly ascertain that it’s describing a person who leads from a position of putting less emphasis on themselves. Invertedly that would imply that the phrase “selfish leader” is a person who leads with more emphasis on themselves. As we know, there are many philosophies and approaches to leadership and intense debates about which attributes describe the best leader.

I have no interest in debating philosophy because I believe that real-world experience is the ultimate teacher of reality and what is proven to be effective.

Similar to what we find in Robert Kiyosaki’s book, “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” I share a contrast of two leadership styles.

The Selfish Leader:
1. Prioritize their needs first above the organization and others with more focus on personal advancement or gains. Exhibit an unhealthy concentration on pleasing the boss or board members who control their career destiny causing non-objectivity and indecision.
2. Express a lack of confidence in their team’s ability to do their job regardless of capability. They refuse to release control creating a dysfunctional, stagnant, and paranoid environment.
3. Bias towards partnering or hiring who they know vs. vetting out the best qualified. Less focused on the greater good and more on “what’s in it for me and mine.”
4. Take credit for ideas and work of others and seldom recognize the team members who deserve the glory. They boast about their progress and seek validation from others. Strong emphasis on climbing the corporate ladder at any cost.
5. Limit the growth opportunities for their direct reports in fear that they might take over their position. They don’t focus on developing leaders and content with maintaining status quo.

The selfless leader:
1. Prioritize the needs of others before their own with a vision of building a stronger organization for everyone. They focus on the team members, stock holders, and board members above personal interests or gains.
2. Trust their team to do their job. Trust is a selfless act of releasing control to empower others to perform at their best as well as learn from their mistakes along the way.
3. Make sacrifices for the greater good. A selfless leader is willing to make a judgment call that might decrease personal gain, but they know that it’s the right thing to do for the benefit of all. Integrity never waivers.
4. Humble themselves to give glory where it’s due. They know that they cannot do anything without a team and they publicly acknowledge it.
5. Focus on creating more leaders than followers. They identify those who are eager to grow and helps them develop the same leadership principles of real success. They constantly scan to find opportunities that will promote others.

Which one describes you best? Perhaps a combination of both since no one is perfect. Ask yourself what type of leader you want to become.

The Teresa Devine Co. “SERVE. LEAD. SUCCEED” equips and trains on how to be an effective selfless leader and achieve real success, leading a life full of passion and purpose. Learn more at

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