“It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit,” said Harry Truman.
My sister likes to remind me of this quote. It comes up when the ego takes over, and I feel slighted because my contribution is not properly acknowledged. I try to be an evolved human, but I am statistically unsuccessful at parking my ego. Still, it’s a battle I fight constantly, much like the one I wage against cashew nuts and second cappuccinos.
It occurred to me again this week as I prepped my deck for the quarterly “PEOPLE” day. I train leaders all over the world for the Entrepreneurs Organization on the tenets of Scaling Up. And, as we know, Culture eats strategy for breakfast. And where do you start with Culture?
Pat Lencioni has strong opinions on this. He reckons you need to start with your own values, and then get the IDEAL TEAM PLAYER. Someone with the right doses of Hunger, Smarts…And most importantly, HUMILITY.
Yeah. You’re going to have a hell of a time getting a good culture going if you have a hungry and smart superstar who doesn’t know how to play with others or share the credit.
We’ve all been there, as well. It feels like it’s impossible to get rid of such a person, because they’re too valuable to the business, their output, their knowledge, their experience…yadayada etc. Then, when they finally exit stage left, you end up going: “Wow, that’s a relief.”
In sport, there are myriad examples of humility trumping a single ego. The Germans conquering Messi and the Argentinians in the 2014 FIFA World Cup. A team of nobodies taking on the world’s best player in his backyard. But they were a team. Lukhanyo Am passing to Mapimpi for the winning try in the Rugby World Cup.
And, whether this is based in reality or just media perception, most people think Roger Federer is the bee's knees, while Novak Djokovic is a divisive figure. Humility…
Humility is tough, right? Some systems (big corporates or marketing agencies, for example) mostly encourage you to take credit so you can be seen to be productive and contributing. This is called “playing the game.” Literature around this is legion, though, and most notably Jim Collins will base the Good to Great methodology around Level 5 Leadership: Those leaders who make it about the team, not about themselves. Who align themselves with the organization's goals even if it is to their own detriment. Those leaders are the ones that built lasting legacies.
Steve Jobs started as an ego-driven megalomaniac. But time, experience, and the hard slaps of being ousted from his own company turned him into a different kind of animal. The kind of leader that built a business, and a foundation, that not only endured, but grew beyond his wildest expectations, even after he was long gone.
What kind of a world would we live in if more of our politicians thought that way?
Humility and Gratitude. The two are like Forest Gump and Jenny’s peas and carrots, I reckon. If you start with the idea that a lot of your achievement is due to the efforts of others, the momentum you have due to the environment, or maybe just being plain lucky at birth with genetics, demographic or even gender…well, if you anchor in a bit of gratitude instead of entitlement, humility must surely follow.
Being smart is partially a gift, partially a muscle. You can build the muscle if you choose to. Being hungry – well, that’s a choice. Humility? It’s probably a habit that needs cultivating.
And then we have a basis to build some powerful things, don’t we?
All the best,