Self-Serving Leadership

A few years ago, I was listening to an audio book Masterful Leadership – Leading Like Jesus by Ken Blanchard and was introduced to the concept of servant leadership.  Up until that time, I was like most managers and leaders I had known and had not given any thought to ‘why’ I was leading – for me or for my team.

This made me think very much about what I was doing and why I was doing it. It made me examine my motivations and forced me to come to some clarifying decisions that really began to impact my life and my outlook.

Was I serving myself, or was I serving others?

Self Serving from Wikipedia

“A self-serving bias occurs when people attribute their successes to internal or personal factors but attribute their failures to situational factors beyond their control. The self-serving bias can be seen in the common human tendency to take credit for success but to deny responsibility for failure.”

Self Serving from

“Self-serving is an adjective meaning serving ones own selfish interests, especially at the expense of others.”

It’s easy to take for granted that you’re leading to serve your team and your company when the decisions you make are good for the company.  It’s also very easy to rationalize decisions you make that put both you and your team in a good light as the decisions of a servant leader.

However, ask yourself this question: “If you received absolutely no credit for the decision, would you make the same decision in the same way?”

If the answer is ‘yes’, then the decision is most likely a servant-leader one.  If the answer is ‘no’, the decision is most likely a self-serving one.

To give yourself a different way of looking at things, ask yourself these poignant questions: Do you procrastinate just so you can look like the hero?  Do you do it without even knowing?

Answering these two questions honestly can be good indicators of whether you’re a serving or self-serving leader.  If you procrastinate when making decisions and sometimes wait so long that you are the only with enough knowledge or technical skill to do what needs to be done in a short time, you are most likely being a self-serving leader.

So, you might ask yourself this: “Will being a self-serving leader hurt my career chances?”

While no one can say with absolute certainty, I can tell you from both personal experience and direct observation of previous co-workers it’s a very good possibility that being a self-serving leader will slow your career growth and progression.

Serving or Self-Serving. Which one will you choose?

Do you have examples of outstanding servant leaders? Or, on the other hand, do you have examples of questionable self-serving leaders? How can you spot whether someone else is a servant leader or a self-serving leader?  Please show your servant leader heart and share!

Chris Sprague is a Visionary Servant Leader
He strives to bring out the best in everyone
Email | LinkedIn

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3 responses to “Self-Serving Leadership

  1. As a husband and a father I can honestly say that our family dynamic changed 1000% when I realized that my purpose was to make sure that my family had everything they needed to succeed in life.

    Previously, my thinking was that it was my job to make sure they were honoring and respecting me as the “head of household”. The harder I tried the less respect I received. Great article!


  2. Great article Chris, I truely believe the best leader is a servant leader. My training was to be a servant leader and to embrace synergy as a part of that style. Unfortunately, there are too many self-serving leaders which no doubt has created much of the economic strife we are currently experience.


  3. I read the book Servant Leader, and wish more people calling themselves leaders would read it too.


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