The Selfless Leader

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Abigail Lucier December 20, 2019 In the digital era, society has created what I think of as a cult of leadership. Whether it’s somebody like Steve Jobs or Elon Musk (and I could go on and on), we’re groomed to worship these super-geniuses. As I think about culture, it dawns on me that we never hear about any of the thousands of people who work for these companies. Do you really think that Steve Jobs, or his successor, Tim Cook, had or has all of the great ideas at Apple? That’s silly, but it’s also where we are as a society.

As we are celebrating Celero’s first year, I’ve found a particular aspect of our emerging culture not only noteworthy, but also something that’s actually changed how I choose to interact with my colleagues here. I’ve witnessed this dynamic on a daily basis, so I know it’s not a fad or a fluke. What I’m talking about is selfless leadership.

Many of us are taught that in order to compete and win in corporate life, we need to be a little selfish and make sure we take credit for successful outcomes. What I witness here, from leaders like Jeff Brown, Kevin Jones, and many others, is a simple sharing of the wealth or giving credit to any and all who deserve it and doing so openly.

My job is in project management, and at a startup like Celero, those projects can be anything from overseeing an office buildout, managing an integration, or guiding a workstream. When I think about getting in the weeds of a project, the day-to-day grind, and the overall amount of calories that we’re all spending together on a project, I often pause to also think of the amount of people, intellect, and the overall amount of blood, sweat and tears that can go into every project all the way through to completion. It’s humbling to think of all the people that are involved in everything we do. And then I think about the number of times that I have heard our leaders Jeff or Kevin, or Scott Farace or Jim Harris, call out people who played pivotal roles in a project’s success.  When they give this credit, they not only do so publicly, but also never take credit themselves. For our leaders, it’s all about the team. While they are all industry veterans and actual thought leaders in payments and fintech, you’ll never see cults of leadership developing around them, because they prefer to share the success.

To me, this selfless leadership dynamic is perhaps one of the most inspiring things that I’ve witnessed since joining Celero. To see how natural it is for these guys to sit there and publicly give credit where it’s due, and to really make it a point to not stand up and say “I did it, it was me,” and to actually do the opposite of that. To not take credit for anything, to stand back and say, “I could not have done this without you, you, you, and you,” well, that’s significant.

Furthermore, the people they recognize are often those who probably think that their names would never be recognized or brought up in conversation. For me, this kind of recognition, whether fulfilled or neglected, can be what makes or breaks an employee—I firmly believe that. So being able to win as a team and to lose as a team, but to also give credit and to pat someone on the back when they have done an incredible job is incredibly noteworthy. This culture of the selfless leader is one of the driving forces behind our culture at Celero, and as we grow, our leadership will naturally expand to include many others. I am confident that this element of our culture is something that we will continue to embed in who we are and prove foundational to our success as we move forward.