Dont let it go to your head – stay humble

To take pride in ourselves is a beautiful thing – in moderation. We all seek to achieve success, though its definition may look different from person to person; and when we are successful, we naturally feel some amount of pride for what we have done. But in my experience, the high of achievement can lead to a dangerous feeling of superiority. There is no quicker way to isolate oneself than to allow the ego to take control; and in the long run, an unbridled ego can do real damage to a career. Instead, my suggestion is to focus on studying how you achieved your success, and use what you have learned to plan for your next big challenge – or better yet, to give those around you a leg-up.

If a person has achieved something really noteworthy, others are likely to take notice. For this reason, the temptation of superiority does not just affect the business world; egos can get the best of people in politics, entertainment, religion, sports, any sector you can imagine. When a person earns a big win, they may get credit in ways they had never anticipated. To them, I say: take pride in what you have accomplished. Enjoy the moment. But steady your ego before it gets carried away – or you may suddenly find yourself very lonely.

In the wake of success, there is a natural inclination to tell others about your achievements. Like all things, a little goes a long way. Sharing your success with your circle – and always remembering to say “thank you” – is one thing, but making yourself the main topic of conversation over and over will undoubtedly lead others to consider you a braggart. The louder you brag, the quicker others will learn to avoid you. But bragging is a choice. If you choose instead to stay humble and acknowledge that we are all just works-in-progress, you will find your reputation remains in-tact.

In my experience, there is no better way to remind a business leader of just how much they still have to learn than to connect with team members who are doing the frontline work. When I was CEO of Tractor Supply, I worked to improve my own performance – and to keep my feet firmly grounded – by engaging with every team member in our stores. My conversations were always about products and processes, and I made sure that everybody called me “Joe.”  No big egos, no fancy titles, just down-to-earth talk about what makes the business run. And everyone I spoke with got a big “thank you” for their thoughts.

I have known business leaders who could conquer big challenges, but could not keep their egos at bay. I watched as their attitudes changed and their pride grew. Before I knew it, their close circle became exclusively “yes people”, and those with real feedback became too afraid to offer it. When this happens, the leader becomes isolated, and the entire organization is less cohesive as a result.

Staying humble and approachable makes those around us more comfortable speaking about issues of importance. When we keep the ego in check and stay grounded, we earn the confidence and respect of the team. Being humble shows the strength of our character. Being humble shows balance and maturity. And most importantly, being humble opens us up to continual growth – even for those leaders at the top of the org chart, there is always room to grow.

So, for long term success: stay cool, calm, and humble!

published Nashville Business Journal

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