Success vs. significance: Making good leaders great

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Kyle E. Gese
  • 82nd Training Wing Public Affairs

Successful people are selfish.


The word “selfish,” however, can mean the difference between something that solely benefits yourself at the cost of others, or an act of personal development and growth that grooms us to be leaders. Often times “selfish” is viewed with a negative connotation and used to describe someone arrogant or egotistical. But, that’s not always true.


So what’s the difference between success and significance? As Dr. John C. Maxwell, internationally recognized leadership expert, stated during a leadership event in Wichita Falls, Texas, Feb. 17, 2016, success is about “me,” but significance is all about others. Everyone will have high morale if they think and feel they are making a difference.


Plain and simple, successful people are selfish people. Maxwell said, “Success is about me.” Maxwell continued saying, people who only achieve success might accomplish great things, but they will never truly feel happy about their achievements.


It isn’t until we do something significant that we start to reap the rewards. Maxwell said, “Once you taste significance, success will never satisfy you again. That’s a fact.”


The Air Force prides itself on the values it instills in Airmen; integrity first, service before self and excellence in all we do. Selfless service, however, has a much broader meaning and doesn’t just mean selflessly serving your country and defending its freedom. It’s about serving your family, friends, brothers, sisters, colleagues and strangers.


Maxwell wrote in one of his books, Teamwork 101, that you could either pay now and play later, or play now and pay later. What he meant was that working hard now would give you a greater return investment and allow you to take it easy later in life, rather than taking it easy now and needing to work twice as hard later.


Working hard to be a transformational leader, engaging your team, adding value to others and encouraging people to reach a higher level of morality, are all qualities that can lead to a life of significance.


Selfishly successful people are not always arrogant or egotistical, but combined with the Air Force core values, along with fostering an environment where team members feel they are making a difference, a selfish team can be a significant team.