I’ve been writing quite a bit on the importance of leading yourself first. I believe it’s important – even foundational – as a prerequisite to the effort and energy we use trying to lead others. But it’s not all about “me.” In fact, the motivation to lead yourself first finds its greatest meaning and significance when its about serving others.
If all we focus on is trying to create a better version of ourselves – if that becomes the end of all of our means – we will find the effort less rewarding. Individualism is a religion that has left many all alone at the top of their world.
Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859) invented the word individualism and observed it’s influence on Western society. He noted…
“Americans acquire the habit of always considering themselves as standing alone, and they are apt to imagine their whole destiny is in their hands. Thus not only does democracy make every man forget his ancestors, but it hides descendants, and separates his contemporaries from him; it throws him back upon himself alone, and threatens in the end to confine him within the solitude of his own heart.”
The opposite of individualism is community. Develop a tribe of people around an idea and you don’t have to travel alone. Independence is our adolescent response to authority. Interdependence is our mature response to community.
By all means do the hard work necessary to develop your character, hone your skill, and grow in knowledge and wisdom. But don’t just do it for you. Do it for others. Do it in such a way that you bring others with you and you walk in the company of companions in the process.