It’s Not All About You. Really!

As I coach aspiring leaders, one common theme that comes up often is an inordinate self-focus when looking at development.

“How do I become a better leader?”

“How do I get to the next level?”

“How do I gain the respect of my team and colleagues?”

While these are all great questions to consider, these questions are indicative that the aspiring leader has confused the journey with the destination.

As it says in the opening line of Rick Warren’s mega-hit book The Purpose Driven Life: “It’s not about you.”

Becoming a great leader is in many ways like finding happiness.  You can never “find” joy or happiness in isolation.  You are happy and have joy because you are doing or enjoying something. Joy and happiness are byproducts of enjoying the things in life that you love.

Likewise, one can not say that they have arrived at greatness in leadership in isolation.  The greatness is in making contributions to the organization and to the people that you serve as a leader.  You can not say that you are a proficient leader just when you have a set of competencies.  The greatness is when those skills and competencies are put into action to serve others. Anything else is self-focused and doesn’t increase one’s level of influence with others.


When looking at leaders through the lens of how they are portrayed in books and in the media, it may seem that many leaders are born with greatness and that the greatness that they possess jumps from them to the task or organization that they are affiliated with.  I would agree that leaders who are seasoned bring the skills and experience of their past successes and failures to make an organization better.  It is in the leading that they become better though.  If they cease to lead, they cease to be better and their “greatness” fades.

I challenge you as a leader to review your perspective and focus on making the journey your priority.  By having a great journey, you will find your destination is in sight.

So when you grow as a leader or as you develop the leaders in the organization, where is your focus?  Are you looking to grow from an internally focused perspective?  Is your career development path all about you?  Or are you outwardly focused on things greater than self? How would your followers comment on your focus and priorities?

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Steve Nolan is a business leader at a Financial Services firm in Windsor, CT.  You can follow him on Twitter at  He enjoys helping other leaders to be better than they are today and still struggles with keeping his focus on the journey but he is getting better all the time.

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2 responses to “It’s Not All About You. Really!

  1. Steve,
    I could not agree with your post more! It’s funny to me that there is focus on the leader’s immediate impact. That is really not the most critical element of leadership. It is what they leave behind. How many organizations fail once a high profile or even very effective leader leaves? That is not all the leader’s fault, but organizations should be able to thrive from leader to leader. Thanks for making me think!


  2. Hi Anil,

    I’m glad that the article encouraged you in your thinking for the day. You make a really great point. Many leaders feel that they are indispensable and in some ways they are but not for the right reason. We all need to be building up that next generation of leaders. That is our true legacy. Have a great week!



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