When Servant-Leaders Choose to Advantage Others – Even if it Hurts

Putting the team first sounds great until advantaging others disadvantages you.

The choice between personal advantage and organizational advantage speaks to the heart of servant leadership.

“Win-win” is challenging when YOU win later and OTHERS win sooner.

3 leadership decisions that include disadvantage:

#1. Developing people.

The choice to develop someone is choosing short-term disadvantage for long-term advantage.

Developing people is an investment. You wait for future results while incurring present cost.

  1. Mistakes precede growth. It’s costly – in the short-term – to allow people to learn from mistakes. The path to high performance is scattered with mistakes.
  2. Average precedes remarkable. Average performance comes before remarkable performance. If you’re remarkable on the first try, you aimed too low.

Developing people means setting them up for success when it’s quicker and easier to do it yourself.

A commitment to develop people includes the choice of short-term pain for long-term gain.

#2. Forgiving people.

Forgiveness always costs.

You end up spending leadership collateral, for example, when you let someone learn from screw-ups.

#3. Removing high performers.

Ethical choices may create short-term disadvantage.

For example, you have a high-performer who consistently backstabbs teammates. It’s tempting to turn a blind eye.

You believe strong relationships build great organizations but keeping a high-performing backstabber weakens relationships.


You might believe, “If the team wins, you win.” That’s true. But advantaging others may disadvantage you in the short-term.

When to advantage others – even if it hurts:

  1. Has the person demonstrated character? Make room for lack of skill. Confront lack of character.
  2. Is there progress? If you’re circling the same hole, you’re the problem. Perhaps your aspirations exceed their ability.
  3. How much is at stake? Make space for failure, but don’t bet the farm on an inexperienced team member.

The ability to disadvantage yourself includes the wisdom to discern long-term wins.

What leadership decisions may include short-term disadvantage?

How might leaders know when to choose long-term advantage?