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Leadership Thought #440 – Avoid Being Put On A Pedestal

July 17, 2013

Free Man Standing on a Pedestal Stock Photo

Avoid being put on a pedestal by yourself or by others.  I’ve seen good people get too full of themselves when they begin to view themselves as extra special and different from everyone else. It happens in all industries and in all sectors.  Nonprofit leaders certainly aren’t excluded.  It is never good for any of us to be surrounded by people who are too deferential.  Success without humility typically leads to ego issues.  I’m not saying we shouldn’t value or respect accomplishment, but we shouldn’t put a disproportionate emphasis on the attributes of the person.  Superlative outcomes are usually the result of good timing, demanding work, and specialized focus not generic ability.  In addition, doing good work that taps into your unique talents and makes a positive difference in the lives of others should be enough of a reward.  Don’t get too caught up with celebrating YOU.

It’s also important to remember that no one is ever successful alone.  There are many people who helped you climb the ladder and scale the heights.  Share the credit widely and generously.  You also probably learned some tough lessons along the way and didn’t always make the best choices – something we often forget.  No one ever bats 1000%.   It is the sum of your experiences, not just the good parts which make you who you are. Life has a way of humbling all of us.   No one ever fully creates their own luck regardless of what they would like to think.  Wise people understand that we are supposed to learn and grow through tribulation as much as triumph.  The history of humankind is littered with leaders who forget this simple fact.

Arrogance is just your ego running amok.  Arrogant people stop listening to what others have to say.  They tend to make quick judgments about other individuals and their capabilities.   Their patience tends to run thin. Manners start to slowly wither in subtle or sometimes even unsubtle ways.  Basic human kindness also somehow becomes known as generosity (and not in a good way). If it doesn’t directly affect them, they lose interest quickly.   They stop soliciting constructive feedback.  Unless, of course, the feedback comes from someone they believe to be their equal or superior (note: over time fewer people fit this category).   Their primary goal becomes validating their own point of view instead of searching for the best answer.  They start overvaluing what they know over what they still need to learn.  They begin to live in a bubble of their own making rather than expanding their worldview.  They stand on a slippery pedestal with uneven footing and improper balance

I’ve been around long enough now to know that even the most capable leaders I know aren’t good at everything. When they start overreaching or taking unnecessary risks it is a sign that something is amiss.  Surround yourself with talented good people rather than just trying to be great yourself.  Make sure you are standing with others on a wide stable pedestal when you receive acknowledgement. Broaden rather than narrow your feedback loop.  Success is equal parts science and art.  And, replicating success isn’t as easy as it sounds.  I’m constantly amazed by how people who used to exhibit some degree of intellectual rigor start forming strong opinions with little knowledge of the facts.  “Ready, fire, aim” becomes the norm. When you think you know it all and start to act like you are bulletproof, then it is time to get out of the leadership game.  Yesterday’s heroes can easily become tomorrow’s goats.  Leave the pedestals to others and instead focus on being the best YOU possible regardless of the acclaim.  We are all a work in progress and require ongoing learning, active personal development, humility in the face of what we do not know, and support from others to excel in life.  It is not a solo journey…