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What have I done for you lately?

By Bob Priest-Heck

I suppose everyone is entitled to the occasional pity party. Even people in the C-suite. Some days it seems that no one knows how hard we work. No one treats us with the respect we’ve earned. No one gives us what we really want. Are we that hard to please?

Yes. Yes, we are that hard to please. So take a deep breath and try this — show someone else some appreciation. And instead of asking, “what have you done for me lately?” ask, “have I done enough for others?”

These two questions typify distinct personalities at opposite ends of the leadership spectrum.

One has a bloated sense of entitlement that is constantly disappointed because no one else seems to prioritize their needs as highly as they do themselves. Their focus is all inward; they can never get enough attention, praise, pandering, credit, or reward for what they see as their due. They enjoy being the boss, but reject the actual pain that can goes with leadership. At best, they are the lonely person in the corner office. At worst, they are the self-centered country-club poser.

The other type of leader is outwardly focused. They worry that they have not given their people enough of themselves — enough inspiration, enough encouragement, enough instruction, enough recognition. They accept the responsibility of leadership, which often includes some ingratitude. They take the high road. They are the real deal.

I’ve learned from both of these types, and I’ve tried to model my behavior on the second. It’s not all that altruistic. The truth is, doing our best for other people feels pretty good. It’s all part of a true leader’s identity — we help organizations and individuals be their best selves. We will fail sometimes, and we will feel bad about it. We may even feel unappreciated. But not for long. Because there are more people who need our help. Who need our encouragement. Who are relying on us to stay outwardly focused.

Every morning we have a choice. Which is the priority — my needs, or their needs? The irony is, the second choice can fulfill them both.

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