You may think of yourself as a good leader…but that doesn’t mean others do.

By Steve Moran

Over the last few weeks I have been involved in a bit of a leadership kerfuffle in a volunteer organization I participate in (unrelated to senior living). It has been extremely frustrating, particularly because I am way more invested in and bothered by it than I should be, given the size, scope and impact of the conflict. Being so bothered by it makes me feel stupid and trivial.  

Then, a week or so ago, I was talking with a senior living colleague who is having a really difficult time with one her employees. It is a situation where the more she gave the employee the more dissatisfied they were. As we were talking through this challenge, it dawned on me that the two situations have a single important common thread. And I better understood why my volunteer situation bugs me as much as it does.

Best Interests

I want to say that in both my case and my friends’ case the people causing the conflict are good people who, I believe, want to do the right thing. But here is where the rub is. In both cases the people causing the friction are only looking at the situation from the perspective of their needs and their wants.  

There is nothing exactly wrong with this in that it is what we all do in lots of places in our lives. It is just not what leaders do. Leaders look at situations through very different eyes.

Great Leaders

Great leaders always put at the top of their agenda the well being and health of the organization. This means organizational goals, as well as the best interest of the people in the organization and being served by the organization. This does not mean the leader’s needs, wants and desires have no importance. It does mean the following . . .

  1. It is relatively easy for great leaders, because their highest levels of satisfaction are 100% aligned with that of the group. Their needs, wants and desires are all about seeing the organization succeed and grow. In fact, if these great leaders have a weakness, it is hard for them to imagine why anyone who is a part of the organization would have a different perspective.

  2. It does not mean that the leader does not have some more self-centered goals. In fact good leaders know that, from time to time, they do need to disconnect from group goals and take care of themselves. They know that giving only to the group can be unhealthy.  

  3. It also does not mean that great leaders don’t care about individual needs, wants and dreams. It is just that when those individual needs, wants and dreams begin to hurt the organization, a change needs to occur.

A ‘Fit’ Problem

Not everyone can or should be a leader. While leaders have a very hard time understanding this, there are many people who don’t even want to be leaders and, at the end of the day, that is a good thing. Good leaders figure out how to take those non-leaders and put them into roles that will both serve their individual needs and the organization’s needs.

If you have a leader in your organization that is not serving the organization, well, you may very well need to assess whether or not they have the traits you need to hold the position they have.