Some people take themselves too seriously. A friend once told me that we're in trouble when we begin to believe our own baloney. Unfortunately there are a lot of individuals in that category. Too many people think they have achieved success by themselves, forgetting all the help they received along the way. I've seen it so many times in business. These big shots are so caught up in themselves they forget about other people. Arrogant is the word that best describes them. Their lack of sensitivity and humility will eventually bring them down. That's especially true if they're in leadership positions, because people will refuse to follow them. Effective leaders never lose the "common touch"-a caring about the welfare of others.
I'd like to share a few stories that illustrate what I'm talking about. The first one, from a recent issue of The Motivational Manager, a newsletter published by Lawrence Ragan Communications in Chicago, involves a Hollywood legend who passed away many years ago. "Actor Humphrey Bogart specialized in playing tough guys, but in real life he was quite considerate," the article reads. "Once Bogart took the skipper of his yacht to dinner at his yacht club. One of the club officers quietly approached Bogart and suggested that bringing a mere employee to the club was less than appropriate. In response, Bogart promptly resigned his membership in the club." I like that story, adapted from Six Men by Alistair Cooke, because it shows that Bogie, despite his stardom, had the common touch.
My next story was culled from the Speechwriter's Newsletter, another publication from Lawrence Ragan Communications. This one, headlined "One of the Family," tells the story of another man who had the common touch: "Judge Robert S. Gawthrop, who has held numerous high judicial posts, was first nominated and then elected to the bench in 1977 at age 44. He once said, `Just because people stand up when you walk into court and you wear a black dress to work and sit on an elevated chair . . . you have to remind yourself you're just another person who happens to be a lawyer elected to serve as judge.' To make this clear to himself and to people who interview him, Gawthrop keeps a small framed statement near his private courtroom door-a gift from relatives: `To us, you'll always be just the same old jackass.' " That story was part of Eric W. Johnson's A Treasury of Humor.
I also want to share a story of my own. I came out of the military as a corporal during the Korean War. I had already graduated from college, but the summer of my graduation I received my draft notice and spent two years under the auspices of Uncle Sam, who sent me, along with thousands of other draftees, to the Far East. Frankly, I had always been somewhat of a snob, but I didn't realize it until I had spent a few months in the service as an enlisted man. I met a lot of great guys in the service; some had limited education, and some obviously came from disadvantaged families. It was an eye-opener for me. I learned things like the importance of common sense and street smarts. I learned that all the education in the world doesn't necessarily make you a smart person. I learned that people of substance don't give a darn about your family history or where you went to college. What they care about is the kind of a person you are without all the trappings of our society.
The point I'm trying to make is that there's too much ego and not enough substance in many of the decisions being made. Healthcare offers plenty of examples of bloated egos that help unravel promising partnerships. Some people get so caught up in their own little worlds that they forge head without worrying about how their decisions will affect others. To them, customers and employees become expendable. Enlightened leaders never forget who's really important.
It all starts with humility,
Charles S. Lauer