Leaders Are Centered, Not Self-Centered

by Alli Polin on January 29, 2013

Make the choice- Be Centered, not Self Centered

Who knew?

A few months ago, when I caught myself buying into all of my woes and pains, as if the world was conspiring against me and me alone, I learned a powerful lesson that reminded me of what matters most.  Turns out, I am not the sun and all the planets do not revolve around me.  We are the same, you and I, and we’re lucky to have each day to connect, build relationships, coach, love, inspire, and work with passion and commitment.

Here’s where it started…

My son was at a play date and I promised the parent that I would come and get him as soon as my daughter got off of the school bus.  Well, I was sitting at the bus stop in my car and as soon as the bus was 10 minutes late, I started with my first lament:  “I didn’t even bring a book to read or my iPad.  I’m seriously wasting time sitting here.

I decided that I’d amuse myself browsing the Internet on my phone.  I passed the time reading the top headlines about Kim Kardashian, Lance Armstrong and the Hunger Games.  I was more than a little restless and annoyed when the bus was 30 minutes late.  My second lament: “Ugh!  I’m now going to be really late picking up my son.  That mother must think I’m awful.

After 40 minutes my phone rang and another mother let me know that the bus did not come to school to get the kids so they sent another bus.  Our kids should show up at the bus stop about an hour after their regularly scheduled time.  This is when I really threw myself into my final lament: “Not only am I late to get my son, and bored but also an hour late means I’m late to do homework with my daughter, get dinner on the table and the whole evening will be backed up.

Clearly the world was conspiring against me and I was doomed to a crappy evening ahead.

The next day…

The next day I got a call from my daughter’s school guidance counselor.  She informed me that the bus did not show up to school because earlier in the day the bus driver unexpectedly died.  DIED.  I had the privilege of being late and annoyed while her family was missing her and her unfinished life.  Um, I think one of us had a worse day and it was not I.

Talk about getting a new perspective.

Time to refocus and get centered…

What a swift and powerful reminder that life is not against me… it’s just called living.  The most powerful thing I can do is to get out of my self-absorbed world-view and make a CHOICE I can choose happy.  I can choose blessed.  I can choose opportunity over adversity.  You can too.

The self-centered leader believes that the world is there in service of them.  Truth is, leaders serve their teams and their organizations every single day.  Big egos aside, leaders have the most impact when they choose positive perspectives and make the choice to be centered, not self-centered.  Scott Mabry put it so well when he wrote: “Leadership can only fill the space that your ego has surrendered.

Choice is a conscious effort that’s worth it…

A few days later, stuck in traffic longer than expected, instead of cursing and getting frustrated I played spelling games with my children.  We talked about our highs and lows of the day.  I consciously choose the perspective of lucky and you know what?  I was. 

Ask yourself today…

–       What perspective are you choosing today?

–       Is it possible that you could be wrong about your situation or another person?

–       What do you notice when you’re conscious about shifting your perspective?

(Photo credit)

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Jennifer Olney January 29, 2013 at 9:03 am

We are not the center of the universe and when we are smacked with that reality for many leaders it can be a hard lesson. What a great story, Alli.


alli January 29, 2013 at 9:08 am

Thanks, Jen! It’s true. So many leaders go about their days as if the cubicles should part to make it easier for them to cross the room. Leaders, matter but not more than anyone else. It was an eye opening moment for me for sure!


Blair January 29, 2013 at 9:38 am

What a shift in perspective! This post is a great reminder to us all about what really matters.


alli January 29, 2013 at 4:49 pm

Absolutely! It’s easy to get caught up in our own world. I felt awful about what had happened that day but also blessed that I could make another choice.

Thank you, Blair!


Ande Lyons January 29, 2013 at 11:08 am

LOVE this post Allie!

What a story… a perfect “test” to learn a “lesson” in leadership. (I’m so sorry about the school bus driver!)

Thank you for sharing your insights… my choice and intention is to have an Attitude of Gratitude for all the tests and lessons in my life.




alli January 29, 2013 at 4:54 pm


I was very sorry about the bus driver too! I learned leadership lessons about shifting my perspective and what matters most. I also got to pass on the lesson when my daughter came home from school the next day after she was told about the bus driver. It’s in the every day experiences that sometimes the learning is the biggest.

You clearly live your Attitude of Gratitude every day. It pulls people from their self-centered existences and YOU remind them to get centered on their gratitude. There is a lot to be thankful for each day if we look for it!

Thanks, Ande!


Alice Chan January 29, 2013 at 6:50 pm

Great reminder, Alli! It’s so easy for us to slip into the pitty-potty mode, thinking that the universe has conspired against us, when during any second of any day, we are at a choice point to *decide* how our life is going to be by having the attitude that creates that experience. Thank you so much for this great story (I’m sorry for the bus driver and her family…). It reminds me about all that I take for granted by dwelling on my woes. Best, Alice


alli January 29, 2013 at 7:10 pm

Alice – When we realize we are at choice with how we experience our life, it’s an important moment. In the bus drivers death, it was the first time I really saw her as a person. Now that’s sad. Connection isn’t possible when we only see our side of the story. I appreciate YOU, Alice, and your insightful comments.


Jon Mertz January 30, 2013 at 7:08 am

Alli, An important reminder of the importance of our moments and choices. I know I am guilty of getting restless in mine, but am learning to capture my thoughts, consider them, and release many. I am trying to use my moments to re-center. Life, as you point out, has a way of waking us up, too. And, as your story points out, we begin to listen anew… and appreciate. Grateful you shared this story. Jon


alli January 30, 2013 at 7:44 am

You point out something so important: re-centering is not a one and done exercise. I experienced a huge wake up call the day that the bus was late but I still occasionally give into the seductive call my Alli-centric world. Every single moment is a choice but sometimes we make good ones and other times not so much. Good news is that each day we have countless opportunities to try again. Appreciate you, Jon!


Kath Roberts January 30, 2013 at 1:14 pm

Wow..thanks for sharing it certainly makes us all think and reflect when we’re being self centred & I have had many of those days too. There is nothing like perspective to build self awareness and a loving connection and introspection to fully comprehend that.


alli January 30, 2013 at 5:29 pm

Kath – These days, when I’m feeling the most self centered and judgmental, I try (however briefly) to put myself in someone else’s shoes to see life from their vantage point…. and how they must see me! Helps me to look in the metaphorical mirror and move forward with love for more than just my inner circle instead of me-me-me. Your comments add depth to the power of shifting our perspective – thanks!


Penni January 30, 2013 at 1:24 pm

I really enjoyed this article! GREAT reminder to the age old saying “Everything happens for a reason.” We may never know the reasons “why” something happen whether big or small. We just have to know that the universe is not always conspiring against us.
I also really think this can be applied to the leadership within the home/marriage/relationships. EGO is the best way to damage or destroy relationships- work or personal.
Thank you so much for sharing your experiences and “epiphanies” with us! 🙂


alli January 30, 2013 at 5:26 pm

Penni – There is definitely a big difference between having a healthy amount of ego that helps protect us and give us the confidence to say no when we need to… and the big EGO that gets in the way of meaningful relationships. You’re absolutely right – this lesson isn’t just an in the office leadership lesson but in all the places in our lives where we’re in relationship with others. Many thanks for adding your insights to the conversation!


Chris Walden January 31, 2013 at 8:52 am

I love this post! Today I choose blessed. All too often we assume we know the whole story and we don’t. Rarely do we have all the facts, especially when dealing with people. Today I will remind myself of that fact by keeping your post fresh in my mind. Thanks Alli.


alli January 31, 2013 at 6:01 pm

That is absolutely the truth, Chris: Rarely do we have all of the facts – even when we think that we do. Blessed is the perfect perspective to move forward with a heart at peace. You inspire me, Chris!


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