My 14-year old daughter came back from school the other day quite worried. She had put a lot of work into a project presentation for her class. She had gotten 98 points out of 100. Instead of celebrating the 98, she was worried that her arch-rival in class would get a higher grade. Have you ever found yourself comparing yourself to others? I know I have. And it’s the enemy of leadership. Here’s why.
When we compare ourselves with others we have one of several responses:
- We find ourselves inferior to them. This creates envy, jealousy, insecurity, and a lack of self-confidence. We feel bad when someone else succeeds, even if it’s not at our expense.
- We find ourselves superior to them. This may create feelings of pity for others, it takes away their dignity, and it prevents us from learning from them.
- We make them the frame through which we see ourselves – Instead of focusing on our unique qualities, we make the qualities of others the yardstick for how we measure up.
Either way, we miss the ability to genuinely connect with others or collaborate with them. Within teams, comparison of people creates competition that can become unhealthy so people are focusing on looking good themselves vs. driving the interests of the team. This undermines trust and team results.
Here’s the hard part. Comparing ourselves is a very human trait. We are socialized to do it through school and in workplaces. Often it happens unconsciously. We aren’t even aware of it.
What’s the Alternative?
There is an alternative. It involves consciously training our brains to think differently. Instead of comparing ourselves to others, how about we evaluate ourselves vs. ourselves?
Each person has unique gifts and traits that help us stand out (there are no exceptions to this). When we discover these unique gifts and bring them into use in environments where they create value, we unleash our potential. We are able to be more authentic leaders. When I work with my executive coaching clients to help them create their authentic personal brand, we focus on them creating their best leader selves. It’s their self that best inspires them to lead and make a contribution that is inspiring to them.
They train themselves to avoid the trap of comparing themselves to others and focus on the discipline of reflecting their best leader self through their words and actions.
Try it for yourself! Take a few minutes to articulate the “Authentic Brand YOU” and then live it everyday.
When you are content to be simply yourself and don’t compare or compete, everybody will respect you. – Lao Tzu
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For a workshop on personal branding: The Authentic Brand: YOU