Be Wary of “Me-First” Leaders

Could self-interest be derailing your leadership?


In this video, Hank Fortener, founder of Adopt Together, discusses the impact of “me-first,” self-focused leadership and its negative effect on those around you -- at work and at home. Hank reflects on the best leaders he’s known, and the leadership principles they employed for serving others in order to achieve organizational vision.

Learn more from Hank as he candidly shares the positive examples of people-first leadership in his own life journey.

I think the thing I learned most about leadership from my dad was selflessness. And I saw this quote once. I think it was on "Call of Duty." The statement on there was the cost of leadership is self-interest. And it was like a lieutenant colonel or something. For me, that's what my dad emulated for years, which was self-interest was constantly being sacrificed.

He was a selfless person. When you would meet my dad or people would talk to my dad, he doesn't do things for himself. He doesn't indulge things for himself. He finds ways to go, "This is what needs to happen for the family. This is what I need to do." I remember my uncle watching me and my brother run up to my dad. We were probably 10 or 12 years old. We'd be like, "Hey Dad, we need some money." My dad pulls out his wallet and hands me 20 bucks and hands my brother 20 bucks. And then my little sister runs over and goes, "Hey Dad, I need money too." And then he hands her $10. To the point where his wallet was completely empty. I hung around long enough to hear my uncle say, "Chuck, how do you do it? How do you just . . ." And my dad said, "None of it's yours." He goes, "Everything that I have is to serve my family. It's to take care of my family." He goes, "You can't ever think that any of it's yours."

And so I've always taken that on as the best leaders that I know, the best leaders that I've ever experienced or been led by were ones who never saw the resources of the organization, the resources of the family, the resources of the team as theirs. They saw it as, "I'm here to serve and I'm here to sacrifice self-interest for what we need to accomplish."

I think for so many people the concept of giving or the concept of losing self-interest or the concept of that model, which is none of it's mine, I think the concern is always, "Well, I won't have anything left. There won't be anything left for me. What about me?"

But what you see is the generosity principle that plays out in every arena. It plays out in agriculture. It plays out in medicine. It plays out with your physical body. It plays out in every business model. Which is you have to sow seeds and through that sowing seeds you will then reap a harvest. You have to give before anything is received. I think my dad never had a sense that like, "Oh, I'm just going to give until everything is gone."

But my dad always had that sense that what he had, the resource he had was entrusted to him, and so he was wise with it. He was sharp with it. He was smart with it, but never to the point of allowing us to hurt the core sense of it. He never gave us more money so that we didn't have rent. He never took it on and didn't take care of what he did with his family. He never let our immediate needs sacrifice the planning or the security of the future, but did find ways to utilize what resources we had for the good of the people, knowing that there's a return for that, knowing that there's a return in taking care of the team, knowing that there's a return in taking care of others, because people are leery of "me first" people. They're leery of "me first" leaders. You can sniff it out, smell it out. You can tell when someone is going, ah, he's taking care of himself first. And when people know that your thoughts are about us, that when you succeed, I succeed, that when we succeed, we succeed.

And in almost every setting, if you can get the people who are your team or your subordinates or the people that you lead, if you can get them to succeed, in so many ways that returns back to the leader. It returns back to the team and to the organization.

Hank Fortener

Hank Fortener is the founder of Adopt Together, a non-profit, crowdfunding platform that bridges the gap between families who want to adopt and the children who need loving homes. He is also Pastor at MOSAIC in Los Angeles and is the ...

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