6 Steps to Becoming a “You-First” Leader


A “you-first” leader is the man or woman whose focus is on responding to the needs of employees, customers, and community before his or her own needs. They are known for their radical acts of compassion.

One way to find out whether a leader has a “you-first” perspective is to ask, “Do others grow as individuals under this person’s leadership?” While benefiting from this leader’s compassion, do others become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, and more likely themselves to develop a “you-first” attitude?

The following qualities define a leader who is committed to being last rather than first:

  1. Commitment to the growth of people. Author Alan Loy McGinnis observed, “There is no more noble occupation in the world than to assist another human being—to help someone succeed.” Commitment to growth is a long-term investment in other people. It increases their opportunities to grow, learn and use their strengths to their greatest benefit.
  2. Listening. While verbal communication and decision making capabilities are important skills for leaders, they need to expand their leadership style to include a deep commitment to listen to others. How can a leader understand the issues and needs if he or she doesn’t listen attentively and actively? Listening is not just hearing. It is actively understanding what you hear.
  3. Awareness. Both self-awareness and general awareness direct leaders to better understand situations and people. Awareness helps leaders discern how to properly put others first.
  4. Empathy. People need to know they are accepted and recognized for their special gifts and talents. They need someone who will take the time to understand their situation.
  5. Healing. One of the greatest assets of a “you-first” leader is the ability to approach another person as a healer in a spirit of help and compassion. The “you-first” leader’s compassion can bring peace to the situation and the patience to allow the employee grow.
  6. Persuasion over power. Many times when a job is hard to do, poor leaders rely on sheer power rather than persuasion. The compassionate leader seeks to engage others rather than force compliance. They desire consensus building rather than authoritarian power.

Becoming a “you-first” leader may sound a bit like career suicide. It’s not. There are great personal and professional rewards for those leaders who are intent on taking care of the needs of others first. Compassion can propel any leader into being someone people are eager to follow.

Ask yourself: How much of my decisions are driven by my own selfishness? What are you trying to protect by not seeking a “you-first” style when you work with others? Who do you know is a “you-first” leader?


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Trust is the winsome wedding of faith and hope.

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