What If Your Greatest Achievement…

The Greatest Achievement of your life! What if the greatest achievement of your life is not something that you do yourself. Or to put it differently, what if the greatest achievement you’ll ever claim is someone else doing something great?

It is simply a fact of our nature that we think of ourselves first. Neither guilt nor denial is necessary here. 😊 Our individualist American society exaggerates this tendency in us. We say to our young and young adults: find and follow your unique, singular dreams and passions. Similarly, society foists upon us notions of leadership which are so absurdly individualistic. Absurd because, as my friend John Gillis says, “No one leads alone. No one.”

In a case like ours (my wife is the Secretary of Energy), it is neon lights obvious that she is accomplishing things beyond my wildest dreams. So, my primary role is to be there for her. And most effectively, to be what she needs, not what I may prefer to offer. In a way, I matter more for her than for me.  Likewise, my children and many of my students will do far greater things than I ever will. Further, I admire so many of my clients, and I am comfortable (it’s taken me decades) seeing the ways that I couldn’t possibly do what they do. In all these cases my impact flows through other people. For that I am profoundly blessed.

Here’s my favorite example:  As my mom has sailed past her 91st birthday, I continue to be awed by the contribution she’s made to others. As a traditional 1950s-1980s mother, she did next to nothing for herself. Accumulated no riches, won no awards, left no singular impact on an institution.  But she empowered our dad, enabled my siblings and me to be our best, and is a key ally to many of her 15 grandchildren.

I want to insist that this leading-through-others is leadership. Someone might call it followership. And yes that comes into play. But leadership is a robust term, which invites different kinds of practice. In my leadership of – and next to – my wife, for example, I bring empathy and can be a sounding board that leads to her and others’ growth. Conversely, her extraordinary energy and positivity contribute to me and teach me every single day.

In the last five years when I have been almost exclusively coaching pairs to lead by two, it’s been extraordinary to see what happens when two people commit to helping the other achieve their mission, and reach their greatness. We practice it at LX2: my partner Laura and our associate Ashton and I keep learning from each other, as we help to make each other better than we could have ever been alone.

And YOU? What if you just made yourself a little list of your life and work partners? And what if you asked:

  • Who is doing amazing work that I might magnify?
  • What’s my level of commitment to their greatness?
  • If I were to see them more clearly, coach, challenge, encourage and inspire them, what might they be capable of accomplishing?

Maybe make it a project for yourself for a while. I would be delighted to hear how these questions strike you, and even more, what kind of action you choose to take to

Lead with your – and their – best self.

  • I appreciate the April 11 message and couldn’t agree more! I would call those who lead through others allies, sponsors, partners, or supporters rather than “followers”. The role is critically important to the high-flyers we lift. I have been on both sides of the equation and found both sides to be rewarding and fulfilling.

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