Much has been said and written lately, at least in the world of sports, regarding greatness. What it means to be truly great, and who is the “Greatest” (of all time). Many people have waxed rhapsodic as they’ve stated their reasons for why their opinions of which athletes past, current and future are the “Greatest”, are correct. Examples have been given, usually along the lines of statistics, but also of said athletes and their take no prisoners attitudes while leading their teams to glory on the basketball court or on the playing field. Those attitudes included former players recounting how the athletes in question would scream profanities at and bully and belittle their teammates in practices and in games, telling them to do their jobs, and how it was all intended to make the teams better (code for “I’m the Star here, make sure you make me look good”). One athlete in fact even went so far as to slap a competitor on the opposing team so hard that his contact flew out. By all accounts the incident so affected the opposing player that he never achieved his own greatness on the court and retired a few years after, never to play again. All because the supposed “Super Star” couldn’t stand to be “disrespected” in the heat of competition. Let me be absolutely clear: Getting in people’s faces, abusing, bullying, and going off in profanity-laden tirades DO NOT make a person great. In fact, it makes them small and insignificant. And such behavior has no place in ANY workplace.
An ancient story is told of a Master and his followers, who were arguing amongst themselves as to which of them was greatest. Finally, they called upon the Master to cast the deciding vote. Patiently, and with perhaps a bit of exasperation, the Master explains that they have it all wrong. TRUE greatness is NOT found in who has a higher status than the other. TRUE greatness is found in servant leadership.
We all want to do well, and we all want to be recognized for our contributions in the workplace and in life. But often we can get so caught up in looking good, that we often make it difficult for our teammates to look good as well. It becomes more about saving face and saving our own position, at the expense of doing what’s right. In fact, we end up playing for the smallest of reasons, that of saving our own little piece of the mountain, instead of realizing that when we graciously share, there ends up being even more of the mountain to go around for everyone.
Servant leadership is just that. Doing what we can for the other person. That could mean mentoring someone who is struggling. Or actively listening and remaining engaged during a meeting. Or maybe saying thank you and meaning it. It could even mean apologizing when we’re wrong. Taken together, these behaviors may not be the ones that get you promoted or give you longevity in your organization. But, they could make you a better team player, and a happier person all around. They could even end up influencing for good and saving the career of the other person.
What are small and simple things you can do to achieve true greatness today?