Are You Unselfish?

Are You Unselfish?

This week’s leadership trait is unselfishness which is, not “providing for one’s own comfort and personal advancement at the expense of others.”1

A helping hand or stab in the back?

We all know two types of people. There are those unselfish individuals who are always ready to lend a helping hand to someone in need. They put others first and are true servant leaders. Most likely, one or two people you know come to mind. They are authentic and genuine.

In 1972, a musical group from Philadelphia named the O’Jays sang about the other type of person in a song called Back Stabbers.2 No doubt you know one or two of these people as well. They are cunning and deceitful.

Which type of person do you prefer to have as your leader? Which person are you?

The unselfish helping hand

During my time in the Marine Corps, I learned many lessons, one of which was who ate first. Was it the ranking individual or the troops? The privates and lance corporals ate first, then the NCO’s (non-commissioned officers), next to eat were the staff NCO’s, followed by the commissioned officers who were the last to get their food.

I experienced a prime example of this principle while temporarily attached to the 4th Marine Amphibious Brigade on a deployment to Norway and Germany. Although MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) were provided to us, the German military brought hot food to the combat operations center everyday at lunch. Who ate first? The lowest ranking individuals, and there were more of them than any other rank, which meant the hot food disappeared first.

The ranking Marines did not shove the junior Marines out of the way to get hot food. No. They let them get the hot food and most of the time the rest of us ate the MREs.

Do you practice this principle in your fire department? Do the firefighters eat first or do the officers push their way in? At department functions, do the troops eat first or do the elected and appointed officials eat first? Who goes first tells a lot about you and your department.

The back stabber

So many of these people have perfected the dishonest skill of backstabbing. They will smile at you, they will act friendly, and they will appear to be your biggest advocate.

If you are a peer, then these individuals are dangerous to your wellbeing. Why? Because you may be a threat to their rabid desire to climb the ladder and they want to crush you unless you already have your lips attached to their posterior regions.

What about you?

Which type of person are you? Are you unselfish and a servant leader or a backstabber using the biggest knife available? How about other people? What category do they put you in?

If you are the unselfish servant leader, then fertilize that characteristic so you grow your leadership skills and abilities.

If are a backstabber and you have the courage to admit it, then take the steps to change and become a leader of character who serves other people.

As a retired battalion chief, I serve current and aspiring fire department leaders through coaching and mentoring. I encourage you to learn more. Send an email to [email protected] and visit my website at

1RP0103.pdf (

2Back Stabbers (album) – Wikipedia

©2023 Rick Davis. Artificial intelligence (AI) WAS NOT used to generate this content.

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