Leadership gurus tend to put the outcomes of relationship interactions into one of two buckets. There's the win-lose bucket and the win-win bucket. Then they'll tell you how you always want to end up in the win-win bucket.
Allow me to suggest a third bucket: The win bucket.
First of all, let's dispense with the idea that the win-lose bucket is always bad and should be avoided at all costs. Sports, of course, provides the prime example. There are always winners and losers when you compete in sports (even in those leagues where they pretend not to keep score). And the same is usually true when you compete in business. While you might learn from your losses -- and hopefully you will - that doesn't negate the fact you lost the deal, the client, or the opportunity.
So, if you find yourself on the "lose" side in the win-lose bucket, own up to it, learn from it, and power forward toward a win.
Now, with that out of the way, let's consider the much-beloved win-win bucket. The problem with this concept is that it implies a competition but it's too often used in relationships that aren't, or shouldn't be, competitive in nature. A marriage, for instance, shouldn't be a competition between spouses. And many business relationships shouldn't be competitions, either.
Again, think about it in terms of sports. If you're on the same team with someone, the goal isn't to win-win. It's just to win. It's not a competition; it's a collaboration.
Apply this to mentoring other leaders or coaching your employees, and you end up with what I call "the greatness paradox," which is simply this:
The greatest leaders become so by making others greater than themselves.
My approach to mentoring is founded in the belief that a leader should invest in other leaders--and potential leaders--with the expressed goal of raising others up above themselves. And it's grounded in the reality that there doesn't have to be a loser in the relationships of life.
There is no law of physics, no universal rule that I know of, that says your success requires my failure, that your fulfillment requires my emptiness, that your happiness requires my grief. The human experience allows for everyone - literally everyone - to be fulfilled, enriched, enlightened, self-actualized or whatever you care to call it.
This utopia doesn't materialize for everyone. In fact, very few seem to experience it. But, again, there is no law -- physical or otherwise -- that says anyone can't. Thus, we have nothing to lose by devoting ourselves to the ultimate leadership act of helping develop leaders who will go on to achieve things greater than we have. We in no way have to lose to help them win.
To achieve this, we have to lead with love. We have to ...
Appreciate other people for who they are, not what they do.
Willingly sacrifice our selfish desires for the good of others.
Focus on the success of others rather than on getting credit for our success.
By making others greater than yourself, you become even greater than you were.
You don't lose by helping someone else win. And since it's not a competition, the result isn't a win-win. It's just a win.
The other person excels. You excel. The team wins. We all win. Because once you develop the ability to create masters, you earn membership in a rare and elite league of people who give immeasurable value to the rest of the humanity.
That's a win in my book.