By John Trombley
The Village Business Institute
Harry S. Truman, the 32nd President of the United States (1945-1953) once said, “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.” When I read that quote recently, I was struck by the deep and underlying, yet simple, truth of it. Picture this; President Truman, perhaps the most powerful man in the world at that time, recognized how our individual natural propensity for self-aggrandizement actually serves to undermine our productivity, effectiveness, and by extrapolation, that of our companies, organizations, agencies, and associations. Hubris (which is pride and arrogance) forms the foundation for every self-serving thought, attitude or action we will ever take.
You and I see this played out on life’s stage all the time. Take for instance the “professional” athlete who deliberately commits a foul because he is bent on revenge and could care less about how his actions are about to lead to his team’s loss of the game; the manager who presents an employee’s idea to her supervisor as though it were her own and as a result destroys any possible semblance of trust that might have existed between she and her direct reports; the citizen who demands that he is entitled to something – anything – because someone else got it at some point before him, and he “deserves it, too”; the mother-in-law who just happens to “forget” to include an ingredient in her favorite recipe’ that she passes on to her daughter-in-law because “nobody cooks like Mom;” or the guy you went to high school with who, after 20 years, still has to be the big shot at the class reunion and bores people to tears with inflated stories of his past glory days on the football team.
There are no shortages of real-life, every day examples that highlight how human pride has resulted in the downfall, destruction, or derailment of many “good” people. People just like you and me. My guess is that every single one of us has recognized pride’s ugly head raised up in our own lives. I know I have battled it all my life, and while I may subdue it for a while, with a little inattention or feeling of insecurity, it makes its way back to front-and-center, forcing me to have to apologize for the same things once again, to the same people, once again.
How do you break the cycle?
The opposite of pride and arrogance is humility. Not the false humility which is just pride looking for an audience, but rather the behavior and attitude that typifies the unpretentious sharing or even giving away of the limelight. Humble people know their weaknesses all too well, and know that any success they might enjoy comes by learning to lean on others to shore them up in areas where they themselves are weak. Where pride shouts “Look at me!” humility simply and quietly says, “Without you, none of this could have happened.”
Humble people also know the strengths and unique attributes that allow them to leverage their influence in a way to maximize their human potential. For these people, doing good for others is more satisfying, more exhilarating, more engaging and more life-giving than being on the list of Who’s Who in America, being inducted into a Hall of Fame, or winning the contest to see who dies with the most toys. While those accomplishments are nice and even appreciated, they are a far cry from being able to look back on one’s life to see that the race was run well and that an enduring legacy has been left for others to follow.
Pride comes naturally. It takes no effort to be prideful. It takes no special gift to be arrogant. It takes no energy to focus only on what the self wants.
A humble spirit does not come naturally. It requires discipline to look deep inside to uncover the hidden secrets and expose them to the light. It takes determined effort to see the good and the potential in others and then to elevate them to greater achievement without regard for who gets the credit. It takes personal sacrifice to forego comfort and security in order to forge a new trail that others can follow. It takes a deaf ear to resist those whose goal it is to drag others back to a life of entitlement and mediocrity because misery loves company. And it takes knees bent in prayer to acknowledge that the Maker of the Universe has given you these short, few years to walk on this planet to make a difference, and that He deserves the honor and the accolades for the gifts given to you and I to run that race.
The key, then, seems to be in cultivating an outward focus. Look around. See what great and insurmountable things there are to be accomplished. Then take the little that you have in your hand, whatever it might be, and dedicate it to making a positive difference in your part of the world. Perhaps one day I might be allowed to join you at the top of the mountain, look back with you and say, “We ran the race well. Look at all that has been done.”
Indeed, “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.”
About the blogger:
John E. Trombley, organization development consultant and training with The Village Business Institute has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Alaska, Anchorage, and a Master of Management degree from the University of Mary, Fargo. Prior to founding his own organization development company, John served as a Command Pilot, Squadron Commander, and senior staff officer in the USAF and Air National Guard—he retired as a Lieutenant Colonel with over 6,200 flying hours.
With over 16 years of experience in providing consulting services and training programs, Trombley has a passion for group process facilitation and corporate training in areas including leadership development, change management, leadership transition processes, managerial coaching, and personality assessment workshops. He is registered with the Supreme Court of the State of Minnesota as a Qualified Neutral mediator, is trained in Critical Incident Stress Management Group Crisis Intervention, and is certified in Internal Investigations by the Council on Education in Management.
For more information, contact The Village Business Institute at 1-800-627-8220 or www.thevbi.com.