On Friday evening I met the CEO of a fast growing FinTech company for dinner.
The guy is a borderline celebrity in his particular field. He’s a pioneer in his space and specialises in taking start-ups to successful multi-million dollar exits.
By my calculation, this particular firm was his fifth such company. So alongside his success and recognition he was clearly not short of a bob or two.
Due to his hectic schedule, his assistant decided to book reservations. 6.30pm at a Restaurant in Hammersmith that I’d never heard of before.
When I turned up at the address it took me a while to find the entrance. You see, this place was so small it was sandwiched between a pub and a hairdresser, and it was easy to miss. Furthermore, inside was just as tight – the place was literally a husband and wife owned Italian restaurant with just eight tables (I counted them), crammed in with barely enough room for the waiters to manoeuvre.
It wasn’t what I’d envisaged beforehand. For some reason (rightly, or more likely wrongly), I’d assumed we’d have met somewhere more grander. In line with his high flyer and successful image. But instead, we were meeting in a hardly noticeable family owned shop. Where the menu was basic, the decor simple and it was more like going over to your grandparents house for supper.
I can’t remember the last time I had so much fun.
The food was the best I’d eaten in ages, the service the most caring and friendly, and the atmosphere was joyous. It was like Christmas, Thanksgiving and Halloween rolled into one. I’ve never been in a place where literally everyone – the staff and other customers – were so friendly. By the end of the night, we were even having a go at Karaoke….in Italian.
Ironically, my CEO client dropped me off home in his Bentley. On the way home he made it clear that although he realised this family owned restaurant was humble, it was somewhere that he loved to go. Not only to have unbelievable fun, but to stay close to his roots. According to him, it kept him focussed and to never take anything for granted.
It got me thinking. And when I analysed further, I realised that a lot of the top performing leaders I’ve been lucky enough to work with shared this similar trait. Despite their success, they often came across humble – both personally as well as in their habits.
Here are some reasons why great leaders live humbly.
It keeps them sharp
We’ve all been there.
The odds are stacked against us. We work hard to overcome them. We do all the hard work to finally reach the final goal. The rest should be plain sailing – the easy part – yet for some reason when we get comfortable, we lose motivation and fail to take advantage of our full potential.
As a recruiter, it’s a trend that I see far too regularly.
The reason? To quote a classic movie, its because we lose the eye of the tiger.
As Apollo Creed taught Rocky, when we start with nothing we are at our hungriest – our most desperate to succeed. Logic and reason – usually also further emphasized by those around us – tell us that we’re likely to fail. Hence to overcome this resistance, we have to become super dedicated just to survive. Our emotions have to be strong and resilient to keep us going.
But when we achieve, all of a sudden we relax. We lose our edge. We might even become proud of what we have already achieved and look back rather than to keep moving forward.
It’s why often going back to our roots can re-motivate us. It reminds us of what it takes to be successful. Even Rocky Balboa had to go back to Philly to get the eye of the tiger back.
Great leaders understand that by staying humble, they stay sharp. They don’t get distracted by the rewards and prizes. The less we have, the simpler life is and the more focussed we are. And focus is what drives super efficient action.
Great leaders stay sharp.
It brings perspective
When we spend large amounts of time and energy on anything, it tends to permeate everything we do.
Highly career focussed people can’t seem to think about anything else except getting that next promotion. Financially obsessed people become fixated with earning more and more money. Entrepreneurs can’t stop thinking about what needs to be done in their business any minute of the day.
And the more we achieve, the more we crave. Like any addiction, what feels good is seductive. We want more. And so we continuously work harder, earn more and sacrifice further in the belief that by doing so we’ll eventually achieve fulfilment and satisfaction.
The problem is, this simply isn’t true.
Great leaders understand that although we spend most of our living days at work, on the grand scale of things, it isn’t really that important. Although money, career development and recognition are essential parts to feeling satisfied, they only make up a small part of the overall picture. They’ll never substitute the way more important and often overlooked parts such as our health, relationships or freedom
Great leaders understand that by staying humble, they see what’s truly most important in life. Rather than just trying to earn more money to buy a bigger house or get more recognition, they live life in the moment and enjoy what they have. They keep life simple and realise never to take the most important things in life for granted.
By doing so brings perspective as to what really matters.
Great leaders keep perspective.
Its more fun
As children, all of us knew how to have fun.
Having a good time didn’t involve expensive cars, top of the range devices or five star hotels. It was much more about running free, listening to made-up stories or simply just jumping around like crazy for no reason whatsoever.
You see as innately emotional beings, when our short stint on this earth does pass us by, none of are going to remember how much we earned in 2017 or where we came in the sales rankings each year. The important things in life are much more simple. What we will really remember are the great experiences we will have had and the people we had them with.
Great leaders understand that the less we focus on other people’s material things, the more we will actually focus on them. Rather than be interested in how much they earn, how their careers compare or what they are wearing, its far more interesting and rewarding to try to get to know them personally and find a common ground to connect. By staying humble, they enjoy the most simple and important things in life – good food, good company and good conversation.
Great leaders know how to have fun.
All of us enjoy luxuries in life.
But overindulgence can be both exhausting and eventually unrewarding.
Great leaders understand that most of the most rewarding aspects of life are actually quite simple. By living humbly, they never lose perspective of what is truly important and well as ensuring they have fun on the way.
Is your leader humble?
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