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Sep 1
The "Self-Made" Trap of Leadership

After my post about gratitude, it was clear to me that there was nothing limiting me from being appreciative.  I understand how important it is and that appreciation is an unlimited resource.  So why aren't I and perhaps you using gratitude more often to lubricate our organizations?

The answer is that there is a trap at play here.  I call it the "self-made" trap.  Successful people and often leaders, arrive at their success because they took initiatives and risks and were tenaciously driven and focused on reaching their goal.  Most leaders don’t find themselves in a leadership position by chance but get there through their own talent, skills, effort and often will.  Leaders are often self-made. This fact makes it easy to slide from a position of gratitude into a sense of entitlement. This is especially common among leaders where everyone in the organization is seeking to please, praise and admire the woman or man at the top. However, as noted in a post on SlowLeadership, be careful about the “self-made” trap.

“Macho entrepreneurs boast of being "self-made," but it's a lie. None of us can make ourselves. How much of what you are today is due solely to your own efforts?  Not your birth, not your clothes, not your food, not your education, or even your ability to speak and write and read your native language.  People taught you how to do your job.  Others helped you win promotion and made your income and standard of living possible.  Still others made the car you drive and the house you live in. Are you "self-made?" Don't be ridiculous. It's not possible.”

All of us havegratitude appreciation leadership teachers, mentors, coaches, family and friends that have inspired us shaped us and led us. My experience is that most leaders have been guided and trained by another leader. An effective leader will always appreciate the contribution and effort of those around them.

In Hawaiian, Mahalo means “thank you” but as I learned from Managing with Aloha,

“As a value,  Mahalo is appreciation and gratitude as a way of living. Mahalo is the opposite of indifference and apathy, for it is the life perspective of giving thanks for what you have by using your gifts — and all of your gifts — in the best possible way.”

Don’t fall into the self-made trap but instead acknowledge and express appreciation to those that have contributed to any of your success.

The following quote reminds me that being ungrateful to people, particularly those in my organization, may at times be worse than intentionally harming them.

"It has been said that the sin of ingratitude is more serious than the sin of revenge. With revenge, we return evil for evil, but with ingratitude, we return evil for good."

Eugene Hansen

Remember to return good for good.

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