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The Sacrifice Every Great Leader Makes
Nothing great comes without costs.
To become a truly effective leader, you must be willing to pay the price of leadership success. This means a willingness to sacrifice your own needs for the good of others. Leaders make many sacrifices for those they lead. Chief among them is caring about the well-being of others when that caring will not likely be reciprocated.
For most relationships to succeed, caring must be returned in kind. For either party to make a long-term commitment to the other, both expect the same dedication and resolve in return. When both parties care equally about the well-being of the other, the relationship deepens and strengthens. Great relationships are highly reciprocal, and mutual caring serves as the foundation for the exchange of trust, respect, and honesty.
When it comes to leader and team member relationships, however, the rules change. While leaders who desire respect, trust, and admiration must give it to receive it, a different line is drawn regarding caring and support.
Leaders are expected to be passionate and enthusiastic supporters of those they lead. They are compelled by the nature of the role to care about the well-being of each and every team member.
But the reverse is not always true. Although there are many examples of teams and team members who care deeply about their leader and overtly express this connection, that is not the norm in virtually any organization.
The affection, compassion, and commitment expected from leaders are rarely reciprocated by the team. Leaders are thought to be confident, powerful, and independent thinkers who don’t require the same support and caring they give to others.
Team members who are highly attuned to the emotional status of their colleagues (who is struggling, who is down, who is having trouble at home) remain blissfully ignorant of what is going on with the leader. They presume any leader by definition doesn’t require that kind of attention. This isn’t to say team members don’t give a hoot about their leaders. But they rarely feel the need to reciprocate with the kind of support and care they receive.
Confident leaders take this in stride.
They understand the role differences between those who follow and those who lead. They care and invest in the well-being of others because they believe that is what leadership requires. They aren’t looking for payback. They sacrifice their own need for support and connection by giving even more of it to others. In this way, leaders act unselfishly and chose to care more about those they lead than they can ever receive in return.
Like all sacrifices, caring more about others is symbolic. It lets others know leaders are not in it for themselves. True leaders suspend their need for support by giving more of it to others. They aren’t looking for anything in return. Great leaders never are.