Every Man For Himself?

Did you notice the title of this post had a question mark at the end of it? The title is asking a question.

Should it be every man for himself in leadership? Should a leader be out for himself? Should the team be out for their own good?

I think you know the answer.

Things get ugly when we're out for ourselves

Image by Pablo Piedra

The answer to the question is of course not. This would reek havoc in an organization.

No one would be concerned how their actions are affecting the bottom line. Or how the company is perceived.

They’d only be worried about their own needs.

Things get ugly when we’re out for our own.

And, yet, how often do we see this type of mindset within companies?

It’s a mindset that’s permeated workplace cultures. And leaders have been guilty of pushing their team members towards it.

When team members see

Leaders concerned about covering their own butts

Leaders enjoying the success the team helped create

Leaders not accepting responsibility

Leaders changing their colors

They see the corporate culture isn’t about the team, it’s about looking out for number 1.

Screw everybody else. Save yourself.

Once this mindset enters into a company, it’s hard to reclaim the proper mindset.

A proper mindset isn’t every man for himself. It’s more along the lines of

We’re a team. We succeed or fail together.

Everyone celebrates and enjoys the successes

We depend on one another

We care for each other

As this mindset begins to seep into the culture, things around the office begin to change.

You begin to see a spirit of cooperation begin to form. You begin to see new ideas begin to be birthed. You begin to see successes pile up.

If you’ve allowed the mindset of every man for himself to take root in your company, start pulling up the roots before they get too deep. Get rid of this mindset.

Begin to encourage teamwork, mutual success, and the notion we’re in it together.

Question: How do you get rid of the bad mindsets at your company? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Joe I had the opportunity to go to a corporate Vision Committee meeting where I learned a LOT about my organization. Our annual “BIG” production trip is won by about 18% of the sales force, yet it felt like THAT was the bar for ‘success’. In the round table discussion I bucked the idea and it was met with strong opposition. However, after the discussion, a number of folks said, “I’m glad you said what you did.”

    It’s hard for production based and profit driven companies to not focus on the numbers, but I think it’s the story of ‘why’ that they need to engage. If the team embraced the ‘why’ it would spark passion and ignite everything else. Otherwise, it feels like an every man for himself race to win!

    Good stuff!

    • So true Matt. The WHY is so important to getting people behind the vision.

  • In college, I rarely see the kind of leaders who think only for themselves. It’s soothing to see the leaders genuinely interested with their followers and their humility was astounding.

    I don’t know whether the leaders from my college would outgrow their ‘naivety’ and enter the real world with the the idea that every man is for himself.

    I hope they don’t because it shows how innocence can be easily be changed by what we call ‘reality of life’. Now I’m wondering whether I’m going to be tainted by selfishness but when I find that I do, I’m going to remind myself of your advice, Joe.

    • That’s good Wan. We need more leaders who aren’t concerned with only #1. Glad to see some colleges have leaders who are interested in their followers.

      • Yeah.

        I’m hoping to see more leaders like that in my medical school next month.

        (Just started medical school and I don’t know if I can survive in it haha)

        • You’ll do fine Wan. You’ll be surprised how far you’ll go even when you think you can’t.

  • In one of my dayjobs-to-pay-the-bills I led a “Going Paperless” project that directly touched over 100 employees (about 1/3 of the office). They all had input upfront and throughout, lots of training, and were made aware of the entire workflow instead of just their little pieces.

    At the end of the 3 month project including monitoring to ensure the new procedures had adhered, the Dept Director performed a “cut up the triplicate form” ceremony during a celebratory pizza party. From that point on we organized our own monthly team breakfasts – no meetings, just food brought in which we all paid for collectively.

    The team spirit was in full force for several years thereafter, apparently.

    • Awesome job Stephen. Sounds like you were able to help create a team atmosphere that lasted long after you left.

  • It definitely starts with you, if you have that wrong mindset, it will become infectious in your organization. Set the standard and be a serving leader!

    • Exactly Kimanzi. How do you set the standard and create the right mindset?

      • Coming from a place of service first, putting others needs before mine.

  • This is a real challenge. I agree with Kimanzi’s comment that it starts with me. I have to be a positive influence if I expect my team to behave the same way.

    • Jon, if it’s a challenge, that means it can be overcome. I know you and you can do it!

  • Ron Mercer

    I call these folks/actions “Soul Suckers” They suck the life out of an organization.