Point of View

Unselfish leadership is the concept that is still relevant in today’s world

August 16, 2021

HFS Symposium 2021: Digi-side chat between Phil Fersht, HFS CEO and Chief Analyst, and Jesus Mantas, Senior Managing Partner, IBM

HFS recently concluded its inaugural two-day HFS OneOffice™ Digital Symposium, held June 8-9, 2021. HFS CEO and Chief Analyst Phil Fersht engaged with Jesus Mantas, Senior Managing Partner, IBM, on the unique topic of unselfish leadership. It was an impactful discussion revolving around personal transformation and the superpowers that come from authentic and ultimately selfless leadership.

We found seven key takeaways in the conversation:

To be a great leader, you need the right mindset

You have likely been unknowingly trained into a fixed-leadership mindset, a standard management approach where X is your budget, Y is your people, Z is your time, etc. You are managing a fixed set of resources to optimize your goal.

In the Digi-side Chat session, Jesus introduces us to this concept in more detail. “When you’re a leader, you believe that your focus is to use scarce resources the best way possible to optimize an outcome. Right? If it is your team, every day, you’re managing what your team is going to do. What are their priorities? Where are they going to use their time? Where are they going to use their money? How am I going to spend this budget? The majority of your time is to make decisions based on this scarcity.”

But there is an effortless and fascinating way to make a difference and switch ourselves from a fixed mindset to one of growth. Jesus spent a week in Bhutan, where the approach to daily life inspired this change. According to Jesus, “The Bhutanese get up every day and they just kind of like look around, and they say, ‘What does the world need the most from me today?’“

From your village to your family to your organization, this is the switch to growth. He continues, “Their leadership is more about them doing something that has a positive impact versus managing what they have in front of them.” We have options of two primary mindsets to navigate in life: growth and fixed. Having a growth mindset is essential for having a positive impact and seeing unconstrained possibilities.

Clarify your mindset to amplify your employees

Setting up the correct metric to measure employee performance is another key mindset of unselfish leadership. When an employee performs poorly, managers traditionally do not look inward or blame themselves. But if you think about this scenario through another lens, maybe the manager kept the employee in a situation they were not equipped for. Maybe the employee did not understand the work or have the proper skill set for the assigned tasks.

When leaders set their employees up for success, they demonstrate a sincere interest in supporting, developing, and trusting their teams, which in turn promotes collaborative leadership among workers and empowers them to take risks. According to Jesus, “My job is to help them be great and to put them into the right opportunity, so they don’t fail.”

Phil prompted Jesus to share an indelible experience when Bhutanese friends came together with the mindset of “what can I do for Jesus today” after learning of his lymphoma diagnosis. According to Jesus, they sought the guidance of a Bhutanese Buddhist master, who gathered 1,000 monks to sing 1,000 prayers along with two monasteries in a ceremony of long life “because that is what they felt they could do for me.”

“For me, it was like what authentic leadership feels like,” and he uses that inspiration to extend the same mindset to his team. In your role at your organization, what can you do for your team today because you believe it can help them?

Move beyond resilience

When one is going through any trauma, “Resilience means [that] going back to the way you were is the maximum you can do.” In other words, you can view resilience as a fixed mindset by limiting your capability to what you have already known or experienced. According to Jesus, “It doesn’t leave the possibility that this trauma creates the opportunity for something so much better than what you can imagine.”

When reflecting on the pandemic, many businesses pivoted in dramatic ways to not only respond to unprecedentedconditions but also to develop new capabilities that they never had or even imagined before the pandemic. Whether they wanted to or not, they moved beyond resilience and into a realm of new possibilities.

Imagination is a crucial leadership skill

A growth mindset allows leaders to approach problems with creative solutions, and you cannot develop creative solutions without imagination. Imagination allows for possibilities that do not currently exist. Imagination inspires flexibility and responsiveness, serving as a key trait for a successful leader.

According to Jesus, “A growth mindset goes against everything our brain is designed to do genetically. Genetically, when you see a trauma or potential threat, your brain is telling you fight or flight. Growth mindset is basically saying that in the face of something that is a problem, you’re supposed to look around and see something that is so much better. You cannot do that without imagination.”

Culture is a consequence and outcome of today’s habits

Culture is a consequence and an outcome of behavior. To proactively influence culture, a leader can help establish and reinforce new habits daily, which over time will be seen in the organization’s culture.

According to Jesus, “When somebody tells you, ‘Let’s create a different culture,’ you can rephrase that to ‘what are the three habits that starting tomorrow we are all going to adopt’ and then maybe six months from now, it will reflect on the new culture.”

Happy-face advantage

Jesus reflects on his interests in neuroscience with some interesting tidbits on smiling. Smiling certainly can influence feelings of positivity, but why? According to Jesus, the brain interprets what it’s seeing and seeks to recreate it; the brain also correlates the feelings of happiness to smiling. When you’re happy, you smile, and likewise, when you smile, you trigger happiness in yourself and those around you.

Studies show that happy people are more likely to succeed in marriage, friendship, income, and work performance. Psychologists have called this the “happy-face advantage.”

As per Jesus, “People who are naturally born with a face with more smile are more successful in life just because the environment they create around that, so …if you don’t know what to do just smile because statistically, you are going to do better.” 😃

The Bottom Line: Successful leaders understand that it’s we before me

By emphasizing the value you can bring to your communities and how to uplift your people and environment, you’re authentically engaged with the art of giving through the act of selfless leadership. In our eyes, it’s one big cycle of seeing the possibilities and being open to being part of the solution.

Care to continue with the conversation? Check out Jesus’ article, “A new mindset is required to seize the leadership opportunity of a generation.

Watch the Phil Fersht/Jesus Mantas Digi-side Chat

You can read other POVs and a comprehensive ebook about the Symposium, plus watch video highlights of the two-day event, here.

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