What I Would Say to My Younger Self
The first time I was asked what advice I would give my younger self, I instantly knew the answer.
“Get over yourself.”
The trouble is my younger self wouldn’t listen.
Self-importance makes you unimportant.
5 dangers of self-importance:
#1. Self-importance makes you dumb. The need to be right closes minds. Self-important leaders defend ideas.
Stagnation is the consequence of defending rather than exploring.
You know you’re self-important when you spend most of your time convincing others your right.
#2. Self-importance creates stress. The only way self-important leaders can feel important is by being better than others. It’s stressful to be surrounded by incompetence.
You know you’re self-important when you’re always above average.
#3. Self-importance is exhausting. Leaders are forced to do all the important work, when they’re the most important people at the table.
Self-important leaders don’t delegate. It’s exhausting when you do everything better than others.
When you’re self-important, leadership is about what you do.
#4. Self-important leaders disconnect. No one really understands you when your a self-important leader. You isolate yourself to get away from all the incompetent, disappointing people who surround you.
Isolation propagates arrogance.
#5. Self-important leaders judge others and exempt themselves. When you’re self-important, others need help. You don’t.
Growth ends when you’ve arrived.
Just recently, I realized how to say, “Get over yourself,” in a positive way.
“Show up to serve.”
The leader’s importance is found in making others important. Every time you make yourself more important than others you lower the potential of those around you.
What advice would you give your younger self?
How might leaders navigate tensions between ego and humility?
One of your better posts this month…a couple very impactful quotable lines…thank you!
Thanks Bob. Cheers
Stop being so critical on yourself. Exercise self-compassion.
Thanks Michael. Self-compassion is a fascinating topic. Thanks for mentioning it. It’s a great day when you realize you don’t have to beat yourself down in order to pursue excellence. Best
This is a great Friday post! I am grateful you changed the sentence into a positive one. “Show up to serve” is a phrase I really love. “Get over yourself” not so much!
Thanks Lisa. The negative is my first inclination. But, I find the positive is almost always more useful and energizing. It only took me about three years to realize the positive side of get over yourself. 🙂
Oh my! I think some of this applies to parenting too. Thinking of oneself is a normal stage in the development of our kiddos. This sentence, “You know you’re self-important when you spend most of your time convincing others your right.” just landed on my list of things to teach my children. Have you ever noticed how similar leadership development and parent development are? Parents are leaders too. The make up of the team and the pay are just different. 🙂
Thanks Holly. It’s great when people take leadership principles and apply them to the family. It would be great if mom and dad thought of themselves as leaders. Cheers
Learn to really hear and listen to your inner voice; it is there to serve you. The hair on the back of your neck helps you sense danger; don’t ignore it.
Thanks Gillian. This is especially true when it comes to our values. 🙂
Ouch. This is one of you posts where I feel like you’re speaking only to me. Good tips to keep in mind as self-importance only encourages that “lonely at the top” feeling! Thanks for the post!
Thanks Laura. No one really understands or fully appreciates me when I’m filled with self-importance. Best
“Get over yourself.”…The trouble with the question is my younger self wouldn’t listen.
That’s completely true. All the wisdom you can offer is only impactful IF it is taken to heart and acted upon. Which comes from that ‘lack of self-importance’. Good stuff.
Thanks Will. I wonder if, when an experienced person gives us some advice, that we should just try it, even though it seems dumb. 😉
If we could visit with our younger self; the conversation should start with a smack to the head! Excellent post Dan –
Thanks Scott. Great seeing you here today. Your comment made me laugh. Cheers
Great post today.. You’ve captured the essence of service/offerings they are receiver centered, not self-centered..
Thanks Ken. I just realized that get over yourself and get out of yourself are closely related. 🙂
“Show up to serve.” How powerful! Years ago in a leadership seminar we were asked to give a one-word answer to “What would you tell your younger self?”. I chose “Listen!” Great post!
Thanks Jim. Great word! I’m still learning that one. When I’m self-important, others don’t have much of worth to say to me. 😉
As a leader it can be hard to get over yourself. What the team is and what it is doing is mostly from your leadership skills. Not saying I did it but that I was able to bring out what I saw in them. Its hard to not say “if not for me” “look at this” and other like statements. The issue is when it all falls apart do we do the same? I know I do. Thus the downside of ownership. I wish I could tell my younger self to just wait.
Thanks Walt. We should distinguish between self-importance and self-confidence or skill. You remind me that being skilled doesn’t mean we have to be full of ourselves.
“Just wait.” Now that’s a challenge. Cheers
I would tell my younger self that it’s not about growing myself it’s about growing others, pulling them along and helping them realize their real potential. When I do this I end up growing alongside them.
Thanks Jaime. Perhaps we should grow our ability to grow others?
Love the idea that we grow as we help others grow. It’s like the teacher learns more than the student.
I always think of leadership in the context of Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle, which is a set of three concentric circles that represent What, How, and Why (moving outside in). This has been the framework of my own leadership, and my Why for leadership is exactly your solution to self-importance: Serve.
To serve your “subordinates” is the only purpose of leadership, and that’s the lens I use when making leadership decisions. So I agree. Serving will definitely fix problems caused by self.
I write more about my take on leaders serving on my blog The Frustrated Leader: frustratedleader.com/2016/04/04/leaders-serve/
Thanks Nick. Wow. You distilled four words into one. Bingo!
Dan, thank you for investing in us.
Your question about navigating tensions between ego and humility reminded me of my favorite definition of humility: “seeing things as they truly are.” I wonder if such a view could allow for a high view of the ourselves even as we also embrace a high view of others and the opportunity to serve.
All the best to you.
Dan, thanks for this one. I have a personal belief – be the change you want to see in the world, and I , like you, would not have espoused that belief as a you new manager. Now as I coach those in companies I find the desire to invest in others takes time is not ‘fast enough’. In a world of tweets, and Facebook and the internet,I find instant gratification is almost like a drug nowadays. I do find it hard to encourage leaders to take some time, invest, sow the seeds, allow them to germinate and you will have results. But I keep trying…. because I serve as well.
Show up and serve, yes! And other advice I’d give my younger self? Take more chances. And, ” Talk less. Smile more”, as Aaron Burr advises the young Alexander Hamilton in the uplifting broadway play, Hamilton.
Thanks Dan for another thought provoking post. I think I would say to my younger self ‘have confidence , don’t sweat the small stuff and help as many people as you can’