Leadership and Selflessness

A few days ago, I got lucky to take part in an online session with Joan Halifax, who is an American Zen Buddhist teacher. After a short, guided meditation, she invited to ask questions. The main topic was compassion. One discussion in particular kept me thinking. Is the promotion of selflessness in a leadership setting detrimental to the necessary changes in leadership, especially for women?

The participant was/is worried that especially women, who are often more selfless than their male counterparts will kept in their current positions, because men or, in general egoistic characters might use this need for selflessness in leadership against them? Like: no, you won’t get this job, or this promotion, because you need to stay selfless and humble. So, mainly using their selflessness, what needs to be more prevalent in leadership positions, against them.

I understand her fear/worry and I think her question is justified. However, I think it looks at the problem from a different angle. And I write this from a male perspective, so I hope I am not totally off =). Because when there is that fear that this behavior could be used against you, then the incentive is to change your behavior and not be so selfless anymore. It is an understandable reaction, but doesn’t help to solve the problem. I think that there is a need to shed more light on selfless behavior. To create stories within the company when a selfless person was promoted exactly because of that behavior. I think that if we want selfless leaders, we should give it more attention.

I think that a good leadership development program should not only teach compassion and selflessness, but also how to spot this in other people and how to encourage and promote it team- and company-wide.


What are your thoughts about this topic? Let me know in the comments below. 


Have a wonderful day and take care!



2 Comments Add yours

  1. I am not sure if I got your point completely about this topic but here are my thoughts: I think that an employee should be promoted to a leadership position because the person is selfless. Leadership is not about the leader but about the people who are being led. And I also think that the “quality” of a good leader can be measured by the leaders he/she creates.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s what I meant by leaders should be educated in spotting and promoting those people. And yes I agree that they should also develop this skill in others


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