Leadership is a multifaceted concept that transcends traditional notions of authority and control. At its core, true leadership is about selflessness, about being willing to “take a hit” for the team. In the dynamic landscape of contemporary leadership, where success is measured not only in profits but also in the positive impact on individuals and communities, the essence of leadership has evolved. Great leaders are not just visionaries; they are individuals who embody a profound sense of selflessness, willingly making personal sacrifices for the collective good of their teams.

The idea of a leader “taking a hit” for the team goes beyond the battlefield metaphors often associated with leadership. It encapsulates a willingness to put the interests of the team before personal gain, to lead by example, and to navigate challenges with a sense of responsibility that extends beyond individual ambitions.

In this exploration, we delve into ten distinctive ways in which great leaders exemplify selflessness and make sacrifices for the benefit of their teams. Each facet of leadership discussed here is not only a testament to the resilience and character of these leaders but also serves as a valuable lesson for aspiring leaders who seek to make a lasting impact.

1. Leading by Example: One of the fundamental traits of great leaders is their ability to set the standard through their own actions. This involves embodying the values and work ethic they expect from their team. For instance, when Elon Musk opted for a $0 salary during a challenging period for Tesla, he not only showcased fiscal responsibility but also demonstrated a commitment to the company’s success that went beyond financial gain.

In examining these instances of leading by example, it becomes evident that great leaders understand the power of influence. They recognize that their actions speak louder than words, and by aligning their behavior with their expectations for the team, they foster a culture of accountability and dedication.

The journey into understanding leadership as a selfless act starts with acknowledging the impact leaders can have when they choose to lead from the front, setting a benchmark for the entire team to follow.

This blog explores these ten dimensions of leadership, each illustrating a different facet of the selflessness that defines exceptional leaders. From taking responsibility for failures to shielding the team from external pressures, these leaders exhibit a profound commitment to their teams that goes beyond the call of duty.

In the subsequent sections, we will delve into each of these aspects in detail, drawing insights from the experiences of notable leaders who have left an indelible mark on their organizations and industries. Through these examples, we aim to distill valuable lessons for current and future leaders who aspire to navigate the complexities of leadership with grace and resilience. As we unravel these stories of sacrifice and dedication, we invite readers to reflect on their own leadership philosophies and consider how they, too, can “take a hit” for the betterment of their teams.

2. Taking Responsibility:

A hallmark of great leadership is the ability to shoulder responsibility, especially in times of adversity. Leaders who “take a hit” for their teams willingly accept accountability for mistakes and setbacks. This act of accountability not only fosters a culture of transparency but also demonstrates a leader’s commitment to continuous improvement.

A compelling example of this is found in the leadership of Howard Schultz, the former CEO of Starbucks. During a phase of slow growth, Schultz publicly acknowledged the company’s challenges and took decisive action. By taking responsibility for Starbucks’ underperformance, Schultz not only earned the respect of his team but also laid the foundation for a strategic overhaul that would eventually rejuvenate the brand.

3. Putting the Team First:

Exceptional leaders prioritize the success of the team over personal glory. They understand that their achievements are intrinsically linked to the collective efforts of the group. By putting the team first, leaders inspire loyalty and foster a sense of unity among team members.

A prime illustration of this selflessness can be observed in the leadership style of Indra Nooyi, the former CEO of PepsiCo. Nooyi’s emphasis on collaboration and teamwork transformed PepsiCo’s organizational culture. By championing the team’s success, she created an environment where individual contributions were valued, and collective goals took precedence over personal ambitions.

4. Sacrificing Personal Recognition:

In the pursuit of fostering a thriving team, great leaders often forego personal recognition. Their focus is on elevating the achievements of the collective rather than seeking individual praise. An exemplary figure in this regard is Bill Campbell, renowned as the “Coach of Silicon Valley.” Despite playing a pivotal role in the success of major tech companies, Campbell maintained a low profile, choosing to let the accomplishments of the teams he supported take center stage.

This approach not only highlights the humility of great leaders but also reinforces the notion that leadership is not about personal accolades but about creating an environment where everyone can excel.

5. Weathering Criticism:

Leadership comes with its fair share of scrutiny, and great leaders are well aware of this reality. They understand that criticism, whether fair or unjust, is part of the leadership journey. Rather than deflecting blame or succumbing to the pressure, exceptional leaders weather criticism with grace and resilience.

A prime example is Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, who faced criticism during periods of slower growth for the tech giant. Instead of succumbing to short-term pressures, Cook maintained his focus on Apple’s long-term vision, showcasing a steadfast commitment to the company’s mission even in the face of external skepticism.

6. Taking on Extra Workload:

Great leaders are not afraid to roll up their sleeves and actively contribute beyond their designated roles. Whether it’s assisting with day-to-day tasks or taking on additional responsibilities during challenging times, leaders who “take a hit” lead by example through their strong work ethic.

Mary Barra, the CEO of General Motors, exemplified this commitment when she worked on the assembly line during a plant shutdown. By immersing herself in the daily operations, Barra not only gained a deeper understanding of the challenges faced by her team but also sent a powerful message about the value of hands-on leadership.

In the subsequent sections of this blog, we will continue to explore the remaining facets of leadership, uncovering stories and examples that illuminate the diverse ways in which great leaders selflessly invest in the success and well-being of their teams. Each dimension serves as a valuable lesson for aspiring leaders seeking to cultivate a leadership style that transcends individual achievements and centers on the collective advancement of the team.

7. Shielding the Team from Pressure:

Exceptional leaders act as shields for their teams, protecting them from external pressures and allowing them to focus on their tasks without unnecessary distractions. This involves absorbing stress from stakeholders, be it investors, clients, or the public, to shield the team and provide a conducive environment for productivity.

Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, serves as a notable example. In the face of pressure from Amazon shareholders to prioritize short-term gains over long-term growth, Bezos maintained a steadfast commitment to his vision. By shielding his team from external pressures, he allowed Amazon to pursue innovative strategies and investments that eventually secured its position as a global e-commerce and technology giant.

8. Building a Supportive Culture:

Great leaders understand the significance of cultivating a supportive and inclusive culture within their organizations. They recognize that a positive workplace culture fosters creativity, collaboration, and long-term success. This involves creating an environment where team members feel heard, valued, and supported in their professional growth.

Richard Branson, the founder of the Virgin Group, is renowned for his commitment to building a positive workplace culture. Through initiatives promoting open communication, employee well-being, and a sense of community, Branson has created an environment where individuals are empowered to contribute their best work.

9. Prioritising Team Development:

Leadership goes beyond managing day-to-day operations; it involves a commitment to the continuous development of team members. Exceptional leaders prioritize the growth and learning of their teams, recognizing that an invested and skilled workforce is essential for long-term success.

Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft, has championed a culture of learning and development within the company. Under his leadership, Microsoft has embraced a growth mindset, encouraging employees to continuously learn and adapt. This focus on team development has contributed to Microsoft’s success in navigating the rapidly evolving technology landscape.

10. Staying Committed in Tough Times:

In challenging moments, great leaders demonstrate unwavering commitment to their teams. Rather than abandoning ship during difficult periods, they remain dedicated to the collective goals, inspiring resilience and confidence among team members.

Howard Hughes, the aviation pioneer and entrepreneur, provides a historical example of commitment in tough times. During the development of the Spruce Goose, the largest aircraft of its time, Hughes faced numerous challenges. Despite setbacks, he remained committed to the project, showcasing a determination that ultimately led to the completion of the innovative aircraft.

As we conclude this exploration of leadership and selflessness, it is clear that great leaders share a common thread of prioritizing the well-being and success of their teams. Whether through leading by example, taking responsibility, or fostering a supportive culture, these leaders embody the essence of selflessness in their leadership styles.

In the final section of this blog, we will reflect on the overarching lessons gleaned from these examples. These lessons not only serve as a guide for current leaders seeking to enhance their impact but also inspire aspiring leaders to cultivate a mindset of selflessness in their own leadership journeys.


In the amalgams of leadership, the threads of selflessness weave a narrative of resilience, sacrifice, and unwavering commitment to the greater good. Through the exploration of ten distinct ways great leaders “take a hit” for their teams, a compelling picture emerges—one where leadership is not merely about steering the ship but about weathering storms alongside the crew.

The journey began with the fundamental concept of leading by example. Exceptional leaders, such as Elon Musk, demonstrated that actions speak louder than words. By forgoing personal financial gain during challenging times, Musk set a precedent that communicated a profound dedication to the success of Tesla and the well-being of its workforce.

Taking responsibility emerged as a cornerstone of selfless leadership. Leaders like Howard Schultz exemplified the transformative power of accountability. By openly acknowledging challenges and initiating strategic changes, Schultz not only assumed responsibility for Starbucks’ performance but also paved the way for a revitalized trajectory.

Putting the team first and sacrificing personal recognition emerged as interwoven themes. Indra Nooyi’s collaborative leadership at PepsiCo exemplified the former, fostering a culture where collective success eclipsed individual accomplishments. Meanwhile, Bill Campbell’s behind-the-scenes influence underscored the idea that true leadership is often found in the shadows, orchestrating success without seeking the spotlight.

Weathering criticism and shielding the team from pressure showcased the resilience of great leaders. Tim Cook’s tenure at Apple demonstrated that facing external skepticism with steadfast determination can lead to long-term success. Jeff Bezos, through shielding Amazon from short-term pressures, allowed the company to pioneer innovative approaches that reshaped the e-commerce landscape.

The willingness to take on an extra workload and actively contribute beyond the call of duty characterized leaders like Mary Barra. By working on the assembly line during challenging times, Barra not only gained insights into operational challenges but also earned the respect of her team through hands-on leadership.

Building a supportive culture and prioritizing team development were cornerstones of leaders like Richard Branson and Satya Nadella. By fostering open communication, employee well-being, and a commitment to continuous learning, these leaders created environments where individuals flourished, contributing to the overall success of their organizations.

The exploration concluded with the timeless lesson of staying committed in tough times. Howard Hughes’ dedication to the completion of the Spruce Goose, despite numerous challenges, epitomized the perseverance that defines selfless leadership.

As leaders embark on their own journeys, these lessons serve as guideposts, illuminating a path that transcends individual success in favour of collective achievement. The stories of these selfless leaders provide a blueprint for navigating the complexities of leadership with grace, resilience, and an unwavering commitment to the teams they lead.

In the ever-evolving landscape of leadership, the tenets of selflessness remain timeless. They remind us that true leadership is not found in titles or corner offices but in the willingness to “take a hit” for the team, to lead with empathy, and to cultivate a culture where individuals thrive collectively. Aspiring leaders, take heed: the essence of leadership lies in the art of selflessness, where success is measured not just in personal achievements but in the shared triumphs of the entire team.