Thinking Out Loud – Ep: 04 – Leaders Need to Be Selfish

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Episode Transcript:

Andrew J. Mason:

This is Thinking Out Loud with Dr. Joe Currier. Episode four: Leaders Need To Be Selfish. Welcome to thinking out loud with Dr. Joe Currier. My name’s Andrew J. Mason and this is the show where we hit the pause button on life, head to the locker room for some life changing halftime inspiration, and then zoom back in and grab the tactics direct from Dr. Joe’s playbook to pull it all together when we’re on the field. As a leader, do you find yourself sacrificing so much that self-care falls by the wayside? Many leaders feel guilty when they invest back in themselves, but Dr. Joe talks to us today about why that may be faulty logic.

Dr. Joe Currier:

Hi, this is Dr. Joe Currier, thinking out loud. Today’s podcast, Leaders Need To Be More Selfish. One of the leaders that I feel privileged to partner with, Andy Hilger, shared a serious concern of his, a danger brought about by the current pandemic. Andy was reflecting on the pride he feels because of the level of service his senior executives provide to their teammates. He asked me for my perspective about his concern that while they’re taking care of everyone else, what might they do better in service to themselves? I have very strong beliefs and historic consulting perspectives that too many of our dedicated leaders are so busy taking care of us that they forget themselves. From moms and dads in the home, to first responders on the front lines of this pandemic, to executives trying to create opportunities for their direct reports in everyday business.

Dr. Joe Currier:

I suggest that most individuals carry a false belief that it is selfish to think of your personal and professional wants and needs. I encourage leaders to get selfish. Again, it’s spelled self-caring. Remember, effective leaders are like the goose that lays the golden egg. If they’re not okay, we’re not okay. Now, in no way am I signaling shortsighted, egocentric behaviors. I’m proposing that the foundation of all leadership is self-leadership, the choices each of us makes to follow a path to a life worth living.

Dr. Joe Currier:

Nearly 50 years ago, I was troubled when my partner and hero, Dr. Les Frankfurt told me, “Joe, everything I do, I do because it makes me feel good.” I did not say it then, but it felt egocentric, it felt selfish, and it was not like him. What I gradually realized was that Les was living a rock solid psychological principle. People repeat behaviors that pay off and they cease doing those things that do not pay off. Dr. Les was actually telling me, or should I say, was teaching me, something so important, but I couldn’t hear it at the time. What he was saying, “Everything I do, I do because it makes me feel good,” has a followup. “And when I’m feeling [inaudible 00:03:36] and authentic, everything I do is better for self and others.” I can give you a thousand examples of this principle in action.

Dr. Joe Currier:

I remember driving him home one day from [Allegius 00:03:49]. An aggressive driver got in my space and I started to react. Les just gently looked over and asked me, “Why would you allow him to change your mood?” It’s a great question. I had been having a great day. Now I was upset by this road warrior and I chose to be angry. I had put on my game face and asked myself, “Who does he think he’s pushing around?” Les was encouraging me not to convert a real event into an ego event. I would’ve gone home angry and you can fill in the blanks. Because everything I would have done for myself and my family that evening would have been diminished.

Dr. Joe Currier:

I am asking our leaders, on the job and in the home, take better care of your self, two words. We need you at your best. That’s selfish on our part, but it’s true. Many management systems are formed around the belief that the authentic self can be swept under a carpet or left outside of a professional operation. The profit-based business only mantra is, “What does your life have to do with business?” The cornerstone of every business is based on relationships. And relationships have two primary underlying forces, truth and trust. Another version of this mantra is, “There is no I in the word team.” You’ve heard that. That’s nonsense. It lacks common sense. There is always an I in the word team. Sometimes a non-negotiable capital I. Sometimes a small I, willing to sacrifice for the mission and serving the wants and needs of my partners first.

Dr. Joe Currier:

In my experiences, organizations and managers typically under-utilize the potentiality of the self, the authentic self, and thus miss power performances and partnership opportunities. Many believe that leading is primarily a matter of knowhow. When in fact the role of an expert, not a leader, is about knowhow. Simply, I believe that leadership, it’s a self-based process. Each team leader, regardless of rank and position, brings his or her own authentic self to the mix. The only question is how well-developed is your S, your authentic self? Do you operate on an S one, a survive level, or an S two, what I call the prosper level or S three, self-actualized levels? Do you do your best and do you remain authentic personally and professionally in good times and in bad or does doing your best change into a victim’s voice to justify destructive egocentric behavior under stressful conditions? Like when you say, “Well, she made me angry.” You could finish that nightmare.

Dr. Joe Currier:

How about we do a self checklist. Before beginning, let me quote Joe [Orman 00:07:14] an All American, an all pro defensive captain of the Baltimore Colts, and an all around special human being. Joe was the author of the book Season Of Life. Joe says that every leader needs a clear, consistent autobiographical narrative. So, as I go through the checklist below, prepare to answer what I call the kimono paradox. It’s a partnership puzzle. How much should a person open their kimono, their true self, including their vulnerabilities, to partners in life and to team members in the work environment? Hold that thought for a moment as we begin to check some of the boxes.

Dr. Joe Currier:

S one, survive level, is about minimal self-awareness. Frankly, I do not connect the dots of my life, which causes me to operate in a social, emotional blind window. At best, I understand my intentions, but not the impact that I create. Which box do you check? Yes or no?

Dr. Joe Currier:

I tend to operate in a narrow comfort zone. I avoid any dramatic changes. The philosophy, “If it ain’t broke, why fix it?” Do you stay with the tried and true perhaps too long versus leaning into change, managing the tension that comes along with change?

Dr. Joe Currier:

Another question, I rarely seek, offer, nor receive constructive feedback when people give you feedback, if they do, do you react, rebut, accuse, criticize?

Dr. Joe Currier:

Next box, I drive my truth and invest in being right instead of attempting to understand your perspective. Think of Stephen Covey’s fifth habit. Do you seek first to understand then to be understood?

Dr. Joe Currier:

Next, on an S one, I tend to hide in my role as an expert. I struggle to avoid making mistakes. I have the belief that a zero error tolerance is what good work habits are about. And the question is, “Do you have what we call imposter fears?” And that is an underlying secret that I may not be as good as people think.

Dr. Joe Currier:

Next, I tend to command and control through rank role and authority versus influence.

Dr. Joe Currier:

Next, I operate in a spoke and wheel model of, quote, “leadership.” It’s not really leadership. It’s the highest ranking officer. You’re in the center and all of the people who report to you are around you. They don’t have any responsibility to each other. You run things. When I say jump, your best bet is to say, “How high?”

Dr. Joe Currier:

Then we look at the possibility of an S two, moving up to what we call a prosper level, where there’s meaningful self-awareness. It begins with a very simple proactive initiative. What do I want you to know about me? Can you see or feel the kimono paradox in the shadows there? What do I want you to know about me? Which box do you check? Yes or no. When I share historic vulnerable parts of my life. Remember, right time, right place, right people. That is when I opened my kimono or perhaps my private window. I invite feedback and I build deeper relationships.

Dr. Joe Currier:

Marker events, second box to consider. The key historic ups and downs in my life. These make me the person that I am today and frankly offers me a career and a life map, mapping a motivation and purpose. My performance and satisfaction improve when I understand what we call the marker matrix. What, so what, now what. I mentioned about do you know the marker events. The second part, so what, means your marker events produce your attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors. How are they working for you? Often, they are actually in the shadow of people who were in the marker events and we model their behavior. The question us, “How is this serving you?”

Dr. Joe Currier:

And the last part, what, so what, is now what? How do I show up in my next role as a leader, a spouse, and a parent? These things are determined by the what and the so what. Next, the question, “Do you establish a feedback-rich environment?” FRE. Feedback-rich environment. Do you align with the belief it takes two or more people to understand one human being? Dr. Gregory Bateson once shared that idea with me many years ago. It takes two or more people to understand one human being. I don’t know what I don’t know. I need your feedback.

Dr. Joe Currier:

Next box, I value the three primary roles of a traditional team, the expert, the manager, and the leader. However, while I respect and support the role of an expert, I also know or believe you decide that product, process, strategy, and expertise do not build relationships. As Dr. Les used to say, “People don’t care how much I know until they know how much I care.”

Dr. Joe Currier:

Next box, individuals who want to build and S two and S three engage in what we call an intrapersonal war. Intrapersonal, inside the self. An intrapersonal war of self-exploration. War, W-A-R. What’s at risk. What’s at risk if I change? And frankly, what’s at risk if I do not change?

Dr. Joe Currier:

Next box, Angela Duckworth has a great message in her book, Grit. Subtitle, The Power of Passion and Perseverance. But remember, grit, not gruff, power players balance passion and perseverance with the reminder that there is a line between passion and abuse. And when you cross that line you are not leading.

Dr. Joe Currier:

As manager leader, the next box, I operate beyond the spoke and wheel model. There is leadership opportunities on every level. Whenever a partner takes initiative, adds value, and serves the mission and each other, they are acting in a leadership role. It is not about rank in role and title.

Dr. Joe Currier:

Next. I establish a clear, coherent, authentic life and leadership narrative. Here’s Joe’s voice again. Including vulnerable parts, and it goes beyond just what I do, by sharing also who I am.

Dr. Joe Currier:

The third level, what we call the self-actualized level, purposeful self-awareness. In Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of human development, I move from what I need, that is the physical gratification and safety, and what I want, psychological desires to affiliate and gain recognition, to who I am. On the third level of S, I find purpose and meaning beyond my self and I strive for what Maslow calls self-actualization. I must be all that I can be.

Dr. Joe Currier:

As we look at the boxes to check, do you have a clear, consistent mission statement? Why I lead? What is your purpose?

Dr. Joe Currier:

Second, is what is your psychological contract? Why would other people want to follow me? As I build deeper bonds between self, me, and others, you, I remain focused on the advice of Dr. Les again, I keep the main thing, the main thing, the psychological contract between you and I.

Dr. Joe Currier:

Next box to consider. I’m willing to take more risks and speak the unspeakable. I’m willing to come outside of my comfort zone. And yes, there is some risk to that, but it’s what I have to do to serve and honor the authentic self, to get real.

Dr. Joe Currier:

Next box. From career to calling, I am deeply invested in building, sharing, and living my life mission.

Dr. Joe Currier:

Next. I am actively coaching and being coached. No matter what level of performance, no matter what your rank and role is, model the spirit of both being a teacher and a student. Great leaders listen.

Dr. Joe Currier:

Next. Every life story has built-in lies. Not lies that we truly tell ourself, but they’re misperceptions. They’re what we call necessary lies to justify some of the crazy things we do. They may be false beliefs or counterfeit memories, things that are just not the way they really were, or bogus models. We need to work for clarity so that we know that we have an authentic story as we go forward.

Dr. Joe Currier:

Next box. Beyond optimism, which is important, versus pessimism, it’s my mindset. And that is I choose, I’m responsible for identifying and expressing my emotions. That’s called EQ, emotional intelligence.

Dr. Joe Currier:

Last box. I remain focused on the 10th leadership contracts. In my book, 10 Contracts, and it says, “In life, when I step in horse manure, that is funny, when I encounter a problem, I can stand there cursing, fuss, fret, accuse others, act like a victim, or I can look for the horse, find a solution.” As mom used to say, “Son, you’re either part of the problem or you’re part of the solution.”

Dr. Joe Currier:

How are you doing? What boxes have you checked as yes versus there’s some room here for improvement. Again, going to Maslow, he said, “What is necessary to change a person is to change his or her awareness of themselves.” One of the great entrepreneurs and very special human beings that I’ve had the privilege to meet on my way, Stephen [Bisciotti 00:00:18:08], Steve once told me, “Doc, I have no right to change others until I change myself.” Wow.

Dr. Joe Currier:

How about you? How are you doing on your leadership journey? Will it be a life worth living or a bag of excuses wrapped in an expensive bow? Please think about it. Thank you. And blessings on your way.

Andrew J. Mason:

So good. Well, we’re excited to share this podcast, is now available in iTunes, YouTube, and previews on LinkedIn. So wherever you find us, we’d be absolutely honored if you’d share your experience. If you’d like, review, comment, or share. You can find out more about what Dr. Joe’s up to over at curriergroup.com. Until next time, this was Thinking Out Loud, with Dr. Joe Currier. Leadership transformation, growth acceleration.