About a year ago, the Harvard Business Review did an interview with Maya Angelou. I definitely recommend checking out the entire thing, but there was one thing in particular she said that stuck with me:
One of the great dangers of leadership, I think, is the tendency to believe your own hype. If you achieved this great, high, responsible position, it must be because you’re that much better than everyone else, right? You earned it, all by your awesome self!
The thing is, no one exists in a vacuum. You are the sum certainly of the abilities you drew in the natural lottery and how you’ve been able to develop them but also of all the people who’ve helped you and influenced you and taught you and mentored you and led you and followed you and worked with you to achieve bigger goals than any one person could accomplish alone along the way.
And I think that’s what Dr. Angelou’s quote is about. True greatness isn’t running around singing “I AM SO GREAT! I AM SO GREAT!” It’s saying “YOU are so great.” It’s highlighting how others’ ideas helped you. It’s sharing credit. It’s talking about everyone’s contributions at least as much, if not more than, your own. It’s knowing that what you’ve achieved has been the result of many, many people’s efforts and making sure OTHER people know you know that, too.
How many of us, as leaders, are strong and confident enough to do this? How would our world be different if we did?
Image credit: Daily Good