Your accomplishment is truly extraordinary. Among all the other basketball players in the world, it was your 3 pointer that will go down as the greatest of all time. Never to be duplicated or surpassed. And that you did it all by yourself is astonishing. You were somehow able to put yourself into the game, throw the ball inbounds to yourself, and set yourself a screen … then make a shot from twenty-five feet away. Remarkable. On top of that, you developed that phenomenal talent on your own as well. All of the training and practice with no help or guidance. All those lonely days shooting and getting your own rebound. All the sacrifices to earn enough money to pay for your own shoes.
Then, to make a shot that thousands of other high school players make on a regular basis and pros like Steph Curry have made over three thousand times in their NBA careers - that deserves a chest pound.
Because you did it, right? All you …
I use the basketball example, but it’s really in all professions and walks of life. We see it all around us and, at least for me, fall into it from time to time. It’s human nature, but it’s dangerous for a leader.
We would serve our team and leadership credibility well if we were better at recognizing and addressing it in ourselves and those we lead.
Why Should We Care?
Chest pounding is usually welcomed in the world of competition. Commentators and spectators will often remark on the confidence or fearlessness of the athlete or coworkers will marvel at the relentlessness of the executive climbing the ladder.
This celebration is a mirage. It’s not confident and fearless, it’s unsure and scared. They are merely trying to convince themselves that they are confident. The very best, those that are narrowing in on excellence, realize how it pulls apart their team by focusing on themselves. As soon as one task is completed, they’ve already turned their attention to the next. Those stuck on celebrating their own trivial success are amateurs pretending to be pros.
The bigger issue is that it’s not only a mirage, but it's a mirage built on lies. The number of people responsible for the ‘individual’ success that you think you have achieved is staggering. And, trying to claim that accomplishment for yourself is selfish, if not narcissistic.
We’ve literally done nothing on our own. Acting like we are solely responsible for our success is not only deceiving to those we lead, but also to ourselves. Chest pounding celebrations only further cement this delusion in our heads.
REAL TALK - Action Steps
The fight is against the ego. We can never escape it, but we can learn to manage it. And, modeling it as leaders is critical. Humility breeds humility and arrogance breeds arrogance. Here are a few ways we can look outside of ourselves and begin pointing to others rather than pounding our own chest.
I’m in the world of youth sports right now, specifically AAU basketball. To say chest pounding is common would be a gross understatement. But, it’s a significant issue throughout society. As leaders, it’s our responsibility to model the characteristics that lead to excellence. One of them, without question, is humility. Stop pounding your chest and start patting someone else’s back.
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I'm a teacher, coach, and parent seeking excellence while defining success on my own terms.