Leadership is about inspiring and enabling others. Happiness is good, or more precisely, three goods: doing good for others, doing things you are good at, and doing good for yourself. While each individual balances those three goods differently, those that care more about doing good for others naturally attract like-minded followers and inspire and enable them to do their absolute best together to realize a meaningful and rewarding shared purpose.

As part of this, other-focused leaders answer a leader’s five BRAVE questions differently than do self-focused leaders.

1) Where to play? (Environment)

    • Self-focused leaders play where they can do the most good for themselves.
    • Other-focused leaders play where they and their teams can do the most good for others.
    • Not surprisingly, everyone except the leader will be more inspired by doing good for others than they will be by helping leaders do good for themselves.

2) What matters and why? (Values)

  • Self-focused leaders care about what matters to themselves.
  • Other-focused leaders care about what matters to the people they are trying to impact and seek to understand why it matters to them.
  • The first approach informs others about how to serve the leader. The second approach informs all about how best to serve others.

3) How to win? (Attitude)

  • Self-focused leaders think in terms of what they can do themselves to win.
  • Other-focused leaders pull together the combined strengths of others, knowing that the world needs three types of leaders: artistic, scientific and interpersonal.
  • Teams beat individuals every time. No one is ever as strong as everyone.

4) How to connect? (Relationships)

  • Self-focused leaders think everything starts, ends and revolves around them.
  • Other-focused leaders enable others to communicate.
  • Enabling others allows for different perspectives, different approaches, leverage and scale, and will inevitably connect better with more people.

5) What impact? (Behaviors)

  • Self-focused leaders do whatever is best for themselves.
  • Other-focused leaders strive for impact on others.
  • The former leads to scarcity thinking and a narrow, short-term focus. The latter leads to abundance thinking and a broader, long-term view.

It’s not hard to tell the difference between these two types of leaders. It shows up in what they say, what they do and who they are.

Executive Onboarding

One of the first questions we ask a new executive onboarding into a role is why they wanted the job, why they said yes to the offer. Self-focused leaders tell us why it’s good for them. They talk about things like title, pay, their commute, impact on their lifestyle. Other-focused leaders talk about the impact they can have on others. They get excited about how their new organization can solve an unsolved problem, meet an unmet need or tap an untapped opportunity for good.


We get similar answers from people starting new businesses. Self-focused leaders talk about freedom from corporate shackles, lifestyle and wealth creation. Other-focused leader talk about a calling. Many of them would start their businesses whether or not they could ever make any money and whatever the lifestyle sacrifice.


When asked about past successes, self-focused leaders use the word “I.” They talk about what they did themselves and what they got out of it. Other-focused leaders talk about “we” or, even better, “they.” They talk about how the team got things done (“we”) and get excited about the impact they had on others (“they.”)

Implications for you

The more other-focused leaders there are, the better for your team, your organization and our world.

Be an other-focused leader. Think in terms of:

  • Where to play for others.
  • What matters and why to others.
  • How to win for others.
  • How to connect with others.
  • What impact on others.

Don’t stop there. Recruit other-focused leaders. Develop other-focused leaders. Encourage other-focused leaders. Promote other-focused leaders. And rid your organization of self-focused leaders no matter how successful they are over the short term. The others in your organization, your customers and your allies will be grateful; and all will be better off over the long run.