Self-preservation occurs when you obsess about protecting the things you are afraid of losing.
Your job. Your authority. Your salary. Your bonus. Your title.
Your carefully curated image.
The Source of Fear, Insecurity, and Selfishness
Just a few examples of the things we tend to hold onto with a white knuckle grip that often causes us to lose the very things we’re trying to protect.
The problem rears its head when our obsession to protect and retain begins to inhibit us from what we give and how we lead. If you are over-protecting what you have received or earned to date, you are showing the signs of self-preservation.
If you are constantly over-asserting your authority or questioning others’ then you are likely displaying self-preservation in an attempt to ensure others see you a certain way and know you’re in charge. When you implement self-preservation like a shield around you, it actually does more harm to you as a leader than good. Here are just a few ways that such a knee-jerk response will undermine your influence and long-term leadership capacity:
1.) Self-preservation drains a lot of energy and focus.
When you self-protect you spend more hours and energy on you instead of on what you are paid to do. Losing valuable mental energy and time cripples your productivity while also disrupting your routines. That makes self-preserving leaders less effective, which compromises the very things they are trying to protect.
2.) Self-preservation makes people more defensive.
When the shields go up to preserve so does the non-verbal language and the cynicism based on fear. Defensive strategies to protect what you have usually result in unexpected outbursts, mounting stress, uncharacteristic behavior, and a shift in values that undermines what people have come to expect of you. Fearful, defensive leaders become a blight on all good cultures, introducing selfishness and uncertainty. It’s the natural expression of an attitude consumed by self-centered self-preservation.
3.) Self-preservation emits a repelling odor of self-absorption.
When others view a leader as self-absorbed, people tend to keep their distance and make the leader’s influence less effective. When employees begin constantly wondering whether their boss or colleagues are “for” them or “against” them, the whole team is sure to suffer. That in turn leads to lower performing teams. In the end, when a lack of trust permeates the team, division and decreased motivation manifest throughout its members.
Self-preservation is a self-fulfilling prophecy and it happens every day.
When a leader becomes obsessed with protecting the very things they are afraid of losing, they tend to lose them more quickly because of the issues above.
Conversely, when a leader breaks through their walls of self-preservation they find more influence with more people by focusing on what they can give instead of becoming obsessive about protecting what they have received.
Self-preservation is everywhere. It is like a cancer to leaders but the only cure is for a leader to give themselves away.
If you’re interested in learning more about how self-preservation affects your leadership, we’re happy to schedule a meeting to discuss. Just click the contact button and let us know!