10 Ways to Win with Ambition and Not Contaminate Relationships

It’s not necessary to have ambition. It’s just unusual when leaders don’t have it.

You’re better off acknowledging ambition than pretending you’re above it.


Blind ambition:

I know a leader who lost an opportunity because he had too much ambition. He spoke more of his desire for advancement than his desire to succeed in the position for which he applied.

Others see in us what we hide from ourselves.


Hiding from ambition allows it to infect your perspective.

You might imagine that titles don’t matter, but earning Director, VP, or CEO feels pretty darn good. Pretending it doesn’t, suggests lack of self-awareness.

If you can’t acknowledge ambition, perhaps it already has you.

Ambition goes bad when:

  1. Desired honor eclipses received honor.
  2. Talented teammates are threats.
  3. Discontent contaminates relationships.
  4. Drive to win turns to manipulation, anger, or unethical behavior.
  5. Envy results in bitterness.
  6. Resentment produces negative judgement about the motives and success of others.
  7. Tearing down becomes a method of getting ahead.

Ambition goes good when:

Service and gratitude answer the defilement of ambition.

Talk less about getting ahead and more about serving.

When ambition makes you ungrateful, turn to gratitude. Express gratitude for opportunities, talented teammates, and imperfect steps forward.

10 ways to express healthy ambition:

  1. Always use the term ‘earn’ when expressing ambition.
  2. Talk privately and infrequently about desires for advancement.
  3. Never make yourself look good by neglecting to mention the contribution of others.
  4. Help others advance.
  5. Stay connected with those who can’t advance your career.
  6. Share what you’re learning. Unhealthy ambition has to know-it-all.
  7. Never lie or bend the rules to get ahead.
  8. Take on nagging problems that others avoid.
  9. Reject the trappings of position.
  10. Walk into every room intending to be useful to others.

Concentrate on adding value and earning opportunity.

What dangers do you see in ambition? What benefits?

How might leaders navigate the dangers of ambition?