Jennifer Fix / Culture / May 12th, 2014

True Leaders Look Beyond Themselves – Lessons from Leadercast 14

Am I a leader worth following? This is the question I’ve been chewing on since I left Leadercast on Friday. For those of you who aren’t familiar (get familiar!), Leadercast is a one-day, inspiration-packed event of speakers discussing leadership, each year with a different theme. The speakers range from high-profile CEOs to civil rights activists, and this year certainly delivered with a cast list that included Malcolm Gladwell, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Simon Sinek, to name a few.

I always leave Leadercast inspired – not to mention overwhelmed – but this year’s theme resonated deeply with me.  The theme, “Beyond You,” emphasized selfless and fearless leadership, which was fitting since the Scrum Masters at 352 strive to embrace Servant Leadership. As servant leaders, we work to selflessly support our teams, lead by serving and empower our teams to make decisions and take ownership of their work.

I could write a book covering everything I learned, but since all the speakers at Leadercast have already done that, I’ll just provide some of my favorite thoughts on being a leader worth following: a Beyond You leader.

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Make as few decisions as possible – Andy Stanley

As leaders, we have a tendency to believe that because we’re in charge, we should have all the answers and make all the decisions. But a Beyond You leader knows they don’t have all the answers and seeks to empower his or her team by allowing them to make as many decisions as possible. Rule of thumb: if you don’t have to make the decision, then don’t. Telling your employees, “You decide,” may feel odd rolling off the tongue, but it will go a long way in helping your team members feel respected and trusted.

How you say something is just as important as what you say – Malcolm Gladwell

We often focus too much on the words we use and forget that how we say something is just as important as what we say. Rather than communicating in the best way for you, learn how your team members prefer to communicate and then speak to them in a way that meets their communication needs, not your own.

It is an inescapable fact that we are made for each other… for interconnectedness. – Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Sometimes we forget that, as humans, we were made for community and interaction with other humans. Technology provides the cornerstone of our business and has changed the world by allowing for immediate communication and globe-reaching knowledge sharing; it has also created convenient barriers that allow us to hide behind our computers and spend more time connecting with our iPhones than our co-workers. We’re taking strides to break down those barriers at 352, as can be seen in the layout of our new offices, but there is always work to be done to ensure we don’t allow our technological connections to overpower our human ones.

We would do well to remember not to treat others (or ourselves) like machines; we were made to connect, commune and converse with each other. When we get back in touch with our humanity and that of those around us, our empathy increases, making us easier to work with and in turn, easier to follow.

Be the leader you wish you had – Simon Sinek

If you ever find yourself wondering whether or not you’re an effective leader, an easy practice can be to take a step back and honestly evaluate whether you are the type of leader you would want to follow.

Do you talk to others how you would want to be talked to? Do you trust your team members the way you like to be trusted? Do you recognize your team members for a job well done the way you would want to be recognized? In essence, this is simply the old golden rule “Treat others the way you would want to be treated.” Simple in theory, far more challenging in practice.

Beyond You leaders are selfless and fearless – Simon Sinek & Andy Stanley

Above all else, leaders have courage. When danger threatens, a good leader sacrifices themselves for their people; they don’t sacrifice their people for themselves. Many business leaders struggle with this, since classic business thought encourages crushing others to get ahead. As we’ve (hopefully) grown out of Machiavellian and Art of War-style leadership, we know that leaders and teammates perform better when they aren’t struggling to get ahead for only their own good.

Selfless and fearless leaders are also brave enough to acknowledge those that are smarter, keener and more creative than themselves and choose to invest in them anyway, knowing that one day that might mean their team members are ‘better’ than they are or perhaps might even take over their job (say it isn’t so!)

Simply stated, Beyond You leadership is the daily practice of putting others before yourself. This is a challenging but incredibly powerful way to lead and live. When your leadership isn’t about you, it will live beyond you and leave a powerful legacy in your wake.

Image credit: Sasha Borisov

  • Peter VanRysdam

    This is great stuff. And it doesn’t hurt that you get Chick fil’a for lunch!

  • Joshua Burke

    Great Post!