8 Secrets to Rising Above the Pack

Malcolm Gladwell explains the deepest fear of all is being rejected by our peers – “social risk.”

I’m watching the recording of Gladwell’s presentation at the World Business Forum (WBF), “We are hardwired to want the approval of our peers … we want to do what everybody else is doing.”

The problem:

People pleasing makes you average.

People pleasing anchors progress, smothers creativity, and worst of all, obscures the authentic self. People pleasures run in herds of comfortable social affirmation watching each other for approval.

The conundrum:

Bill George said, “Once you get past an IQ of 120, intelligence isn’t the main factor in leadership success, Emotional Intelligence (EI) is.”

EI is the ability to, “monitor one’s own and others’ emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions.”

Danger: Sensitivity to the feelings of others transforms insecure leaders into people pleasures.  But, feeling approval requires willingness to feel disapproval.

The cure:

  1. Love your organization enough to do what’s best for it even if it isn’t what’s best for you. Love defeats fear. Leaders who sacrifice organizational interests on the altar of self-interests aren’t worthy to lead.
  2. Humbly give yourself to noble ideals like generosity, honesty, creativity, and excellence.
  3. Read biographies of courageous leaders.
  4. Use fear to show the way. “I believe that anyone can conquer fear by doing the things he fears to do, provided he keeps doing them until he gets a record of successful experience behind him.” Eleanor Roosevelt
  5. Embrace the process. Overcoming people pleasing isn’t a once-and-done event.
  6. Find friends that speak the truth, even when it hurts. You know someone loves you when they wound you for your good.
  7. Seek council before aggressively challenging the status quo. Don’t overreact.
  8. Disagree without being disagreeable. Abrasiveness isn’t courage.


How can leaders overcome the pressure to please?

What’s the good side to people pleasing?

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