There is a book series for children 8-12 years of age called Skylanders Universe: The Mask of Power. It is a conventional storyline of good versus evil. The good guys are called Skylanders. The bad guys, called Spell Punks, create a mask of power that uses fire, water, technology and more to bring chaos and harm to people. When the mask is destroyed, the good guys return to rule.
Power used for good. Power used for evil. A typical storyline in real-life leadership, too.
But what about achievement?
Is achievement a good thing? Or is it merely our “mask of power?”
For me, this question has been a fascinating one to contemplate. Since childhood, we have been taught that achievement is good: get good grades, win games, collect trophies. Achievement means you are a winner – losing means you are a loser.
In my professional life, I have often observed leaders who are obsessed with achievement. And I have found that achievement can be a good thing, but it can also just be another word for power – another word for self-focused ambition.
Have you seen this in the workplace?
The boss says, “We win as a team.” But then you find out that it is mostly the boss who wins. The boss gets the credit. The boss gets the bonus. The boss gets a raise or promotion. The boss gets a new job.
How would it look if we actually won as a team? The boss would celebrate the team members publicly and thank them for their contributions. The boss would make sure the team gets a great bonus check. The boss would ensure the leader of the success is considered for a raise or promotion. The boss would encourage the best team players to pursue new jobs that have been posted in another department.
The boss who talks about winning and achievement – but who is actually only focused on their own success – seems more prevalent. The leader who ensures the team achieves the goals and receives the benefits is a much rarer breed.
No debate, great leaders achieve great results. Without results, no one in the enterprise can prosper.
But achievement, just like power, can harm the organization if it is all about you.
“You can succeed best and quickest by helping others to succeed.” Napoleon Hill
Challenge yourself to first think of the team’s achievement before thinking of your own. Consider these examples:
- The quarterback on the football team may call plays and throw the ball, but he can’t make all the touchdowns.
- The soprano in the choir can sing a beautiful solo, but there is nothing like the sound of the full choir reaching a crescendo at the end of a performance.
- The project leader can set up a fabulous work plan, but cannot execute every task required.
From childhood, you’ve been trained to pursue achievement. As an adult, see if you can shift that focus to the achievement of the team. Give them the credit. Give them the benefits of the win. If you do, you will inspire the best performance possible from your team.
“Too often, achievement is merely a mask of power.” Cheryl B