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The benefits of selfishness

- December 13, 2019 3 MIN READ

We live in a world where we now constantly strive to put others first and think outside of our inner circle to understand what we can do for the betterment of others and the planet. However Josephine Otim, a sought after change management specialist, suggests sometimes putting yourself first can benefit everyone.

“You do your best work with a gun to your head.”

Sound familiar? I’ve never had a gun to my head, but I do work really well under pressure and can deliver quality outcomes even when faced with a tight deadline or a reduction in resources. Some people like me thrive under pressure, but some don’t. We’re all different.

But whereas finding yourself under intense pressure may bring out your best, it can bring out the worst in others. Many fold or crack under this kind of strain, a breaking point that can be particularly damaging for those in executive or leadership roles. When business owners find themselves not coping with whatever situation they’re in, those around them tend to cop the brunt of the negative emotions they’re feeling.

So, I’m all for embracing a controversial ‘self-first’ approach to better management.

Evolving selfishness in leadership

This is not a Gordon Gekko/Wall Street-style screed about greed being good, simply repurposed as selfishness. We would all have an anecdote (or two!) to share about self-involved, self-interested bosses they’ve had in the past.

This is not the selfishness I’m referring to. The selfish leadership I’m championing is the ‘good’ kind, the kind which allows you to be good to those around you because you have made room in your life to be good to yourself first.

I design strategic roadmaps to drive high impact change across organisations. I help people change the way they do things and think about things. I implement creative adoption approaches through the use of gamification and attraction techniques. My role in the world is to create agility through the evolution of ideas. So let’s evolve ‘selfishness’.

Choosing kindness

Empathy, kindness, goodwill, selflessness, and gratitude are all positive states of mind. When they’re experienced, the brain release serotonin, oxytocin, and other chemicals that reduce stress, improve the immune system, and significantly reduce our inclinations towards psychosomatic diseases.

Negative impulses in the workplace might include envy, stress, fear or guilt, even overconfidence, and can compel you to behave in ways that are out of character, neither admirable nor befitting of someone in a leadership position. At best, these tendencies may find you in verbal or other sorts of conflict; or worse, in court.

Accentuate the positive

As leaders, when we experience positive states of mind, we tend to share the spoils of those with those around us. We take what we’re feeling, what we’re experiencing, and magnify it to our colleagues and co-workers. In doing this, we’re creating a brighter, better and more congenial atmosphere, improving morale, and boosting productivity.

The same can be said for negative emotions. When we experience anger, it’s not simply limited to ourselves. It’s amplified onto those around us.

As leaders, it is important to be selfish; to care for our own state of being over anything else — so that we can then spread the benefits of that self-care far and wide.

There a few things you can do to self-improve that will have follow-on effects.

Put yourself first

Feeling good – literally feeling good from the inside out – is a great place to start. Look after yourself. Make sure you’re eating properly, and getting enough exercise. Prioritise sleep – make sure you’re well-rested. Plan, and take the time, to rejuvenate and relax over the Christmas and New Year period. Look after yourself, because you see the value in doing just that and you don’t see it as being indulgent or narcissistic.

Exercise compassion

Compassion is the desire to help someone in need. Redirecting that feeling and developing self-compassion affords you the desire to fix whatever is ailing you. Developing and refining your levels of compassion to the point where you can fully relate to others is as good a reason to be selfish as any.

Exercise your self-esteem

Self-esteem is vital in business. If you have confidence in your abilities and feel worthy of happiness and a good life, despite how many people may say you’re undeserving or put you down in other ways, with self-esteem, it doesn’t matter. You know you’ve got things covered. Having a healthy sense of self-esteem enables you to take more calculated risks, to be more ambitious, and better cope with loss or rejection.

Through refocussing your energies and your mind on your ‘self’, and developing compassion, self-esteem, love, understanding of and respect for yourself, you’ll improve your whole self, including your leadership abilities.

Be selfish in the right ways now, and your colleagues, staff – and everyone around you – will benefit in the long run.

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