Leaders: How do you compare?

Robert Fulghum’s assertion that everything he needs to know he learned in Kindergarten needs a corollary.  That is, everything others need for me to know I learned in Sunday School.

The best source of leadership principles in my life, is church.  Timeless truths that can make me a more effective, genuine leader are low hanging fruit, ripe for the picking when I am at my place of worship.  Whether from the pulpit, during small group lessons, or someone’s heartfelt prayer lifted at just the right time, wisdom seems available at every turn.

The latest, greatest of these is from a pastor/teacher in the Silicon Valley of California named Chip Ingram.  In his video series called “Spiritual Simplicity.”  He spent one lesson urging people to remove comparison from life.  His assertion  is that MY motivation should be to be the best I can be.  The minute I begin comparing my status, accomplishments, or possessions to others, I have taken a step down one of two equally perilous roads.  One that leads to envy, or the other that leads to arrogance.

There are many other spiritual lessons he covered about what it is, and is not real success.  I will not cover those in this “Business Blog”, but the core principle that “comparison leads to trouble” rings absolutely true and has business leadership implications worth discussing.

I am a goal oriented person, and believe goal setting is absolutely necessary if you want to be successful.  I also believe in benchmarking so that we know our targets get us where we need them in order to compete.  Even in this judicious use of comparison, I see Chip’s warning come to life.  Take, for instance, Press Ganey patient satisfaction scores, that so many hospitals use to measure customer satisfaction.  When we find ourselves at the 50th percentile or lower do we not envy those who are in the 90’s?  When we get to the 90’s we celebrate, and rightly so…  But when we get there, be honest, do we not tend to look down our nose at those who just cannot get it together?

Truthfully, envy is not an issue for me.  I am content in almost any situation.  I am truly happy for anyone when they win.  Even when things are difficult for me, I have confidence that they will work out in the end, as long as I do the things I know I need to do.  That being said, many do struggle with envy today.  In fact, it seems we have an epidemic of envy in our society.  People comparing themselves to others is at the root of all of it.  People who would rather resent others for what they have, or have done, than do the things they can “to be the change they want to see in the world,” as Gandhi encouraged.

Arrogance, on the other hand, is something I have to fight to keep in check.  I tend to give myself, and even my team, way to much credit when things go well.  It has caused me to move ahead into areas, “where angels fear to tread” on more than one occasion (and you know what they call people who do that!)  I compare what I have accomplished to others and it can go to my head, forgetting the source of every good gift is far beyond my control.  There is nothing about me for which I can take credit.  Any positive attribute is not of my own making.

On the other hand, if I look at the SIGNIFICANT areas of opportunities to be a better leader, better husband, better father, better man, humility is right there for the taking!

So how about you?  Is it envy or arrogance you have to guard against? Let us hear from you.  We can compare our stories!

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