”Selfless leadership versus selfish leadership, how would your team describe yours?”

“If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to the people you may never dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.” – Fred (Mr.) Rogers


In 2009, veteran Texas skydiver Dave Hartsock was in the middle of a 13,000-feet-high tandem jump with Shirley Dygert, a grandmother and first-time diver, when he realized that neither of their two parachutes were open all the way. After struggling to untangle the lines, and just seconds before impact, Hartsock opted to rotate his body so he’d cushion Dygert and absorb the brunt of the force when they hit the ground.

Hartsock’s quick thinking and selfless heroism saved Dygert’s life. While sustaining some injuries she recovered and functioned normally. However, Hartsock paid a monumental price being paralyzed from the neck down for life.

Dygert tears up when she says, “How can somebody have that much love for another person?” Hartsock could have made some very good excuses to not make that sacrifice but great leaders never do.

Your story may not be as dramatic. But if you aspire to be a great leader, find ways every day to sacrifice your own feelings and level of comfort for your team. Too many leaders sacrifice their team to build their own careers while thinking very little about what their team members give to make the organization successful and their leader look good.

Selfless leaders always make time to sincerely thank and appropriately reward their team. They never offer excuses for not doing it. Unappreciated team members cost organizations in so many ways other than money. Selfless leaders put the advancement and benefits of the team ahead of their own. That one act alone indicates whether you are a boss being tolerated, or a celebrated leader who puts his team first.

As a leader, you never know when you will have to ask the team to go above and beyond the call of duty. Selfish leaders will find few volunteers when they need them the most, while selfless leaders seem to never lack for willing hands and feet. Why? Because they won their hearts and minds before the need arrived.

You may not be a Mr. Rodgers, the famous easygoing TV host of Mister Rogers Neighborhood, but neither should you be Attila the Hun, the aggressive and ruthless leader of the 5th century. Just be yourself. But, whoever that is, be selfless.

The personal rewards of a selfless leader may take longer, but they are far greater in the end. If your team felt completely safe in describing you and your leadership, would the vote be celebrated or tolerated? When was the last time you ”took one for the team?”