We are a culture which is obsessed with ourselves. We are constantly thinking about ourselves, taking and posting photos of ourselves, comparing and contrasting ourselves to others, reading books (and blogs!) to help us develop ourselves. How much time and energy is spent in organisations the world over as people constantly position themselves for promotion, filtering every decision that is made through the lens of self-advancement. The wheels of our self-obsession are constantly spinning and it is exhausting. Self-absorption is as addictive as any substance bought from your corner drug dealer!
One of my favourite authors, Dr Tim Keller, has written a marvellous booklet called “The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness” (available from Amazon). He makes a wonderful case for the personal, relational and spiritual freedom that comes from self-forgetfulness. It is only as we forget about ourselves for a moment that we are truly free to consider the needs of others, to serve them and advance their wellbeing.
Think about this for a moment in an organisational setting. Don’t we all want leaders who are truly, deeply ‘self-forgetful’ - men and women who have stepped off the treadmill of self-obsession and self-interest and are genuinely concerned for the good of others, for the flourishing of the organisation? Is not the paradox here that such leaders will find others gravitating to them and that they will in fact out perform and out-produce those whose primary drive is the self? Our interests will be met most readily when we are not worrying about our interests being met!
Here is another sobering thought I had - you can’t fake self-forgetfulness. You see, if I am controlled by self-obsession, then this will ‘leak’ out into all my interactions. Just as it is said that horses can smell the fear of nervous riders, so I believe that followers can ‘smell’ the odour of a self-driven leader. It is the stench of death. On the other hand, there is nothing as sweet as being in the presence of someone who has forgotten about themselves and is wholly concerned with you, your wellbeing and the success of your organisation.
What kind of leader are you? What do you need to change today?
Can I help?