Green with Envy: When Leaders Lose Their Sight

O, beware my lord, of jealousy!
It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock
The meat it feeds on.
–      Shakespeare 

A story is told of two shopkeepers who were bitter rivals. Their stores were directly across the street from each other, and they would spend each day keeping track of each other’s business. If one got a customer, he would smile in triumph at his rival.

One night an angel appeared to one of the shopkeepers in a dream and said, “I will give you anything you ask, but whatever you receive, your competitor will receive twice as much. Would you be rich? You can be very rich, but he will be twice as wealthy. Do you wish to live a long life? You can, but his life will be longer and healthier. What is your desire?” The man frowned, and thought for a moment, then said, “Here is my request: Strike me blind in one eye!”

Sir Walter Scott

By contrast, consider the following story of Sir Walter Scott. For years, Scott was the leading literary figure in the British Empire. No one could write as well as he. Then the works of Lord Byron began to appear, their greatness was immediately evident. Soon an anonymous critic praised his poems in a London paper. He declared that in the presence of these brilliant works of poetic genius, Scott could no longer be considered the leading poet ofEngland. It was later discovered that the unnamed reviewer had been none other than Sir Walter Scott himself.

These two stories typify the choices you have when it comes to leadership and your attitude toward others. Jealousy is the one fly in the ointment that will blind you to the talents of others and your rightful ability to appreciate the gifts within your organization. The success of your competitors can stress you or strengthen you; the choice is yours.

John Maxwell

John Maxwell said, “There is nothing wrong with competition. The problem for many leaders is that they end up competing against their peers in their own organization in a way that hurts the team and them.” And this is your challenge as a leader; not to allow your ambition to turn to jealousy. Consider these three questions as you evaluate your jealousy quotient.

What do I celebrate? Tom Peters said, “Celebrate what you want to see more of.” What a great observation. A jealous person will find it difficult to celebrate the success of his competitors much less that which comes from within his own organization. Resentment and a poor attitude are self-inflicted barriers that will always hold you back.

But with a sincere affirmation for the success of others, you will begin to feel the reciprocal winds of good favor move in your direction. When you celebrate the achievements of others you will more clearly understand your purpose as a leader.

What do I value? The measure or lasting implication of the success of others can be subjective. If that success was attained by shady or unethical means the reason to celebrate can be nullified. But how do you respond when the process was fair and honest? At the end of the day it is not about becoming like the merchants keeping score, but in respecting the integrity of the system.

Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein said, “Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.” It is because you are a leader with values you will applaud and appreciate the gifts of others. And what you value you will promote. There is no room for jealousy in the heart of a leader with clear values.

What do I see? Is the prism by which you look at the success and accomplishments of others tinted green? Do you put on a good face in public but privately hold resentments? While competition can be healthy it can be your ruin if you are consumed with jealousy.

Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela said, “It is better to lead from behind and put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then the people will appreciate your leadership.” His words reflect a leader with strong values and a clear moral viewpoint.

It’s when you can celebrate with others, and add value by example that you will have the vision to lead with clarity. How is your sight today?

© 2011 Doug Dickerson

Doug Dickerson is an award winning columnist and leadership speaker. He is the author of the new book, Leaders Without Borders: 9 Essentials for Everyday Leaders. A Lowcountry resident, Doug is available to speak for your business, civic, or church group. Visit www.dougsmanagementmoment.blogspot.com for more details.

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3 thoughts on “Green with Envy: When Leaders Lose Their Sight

  1. Another great posting! Your unselfish efforts and devotion to character and leadership building is much appreciated.

  2. Another insightful post that demands some thoughtful reflection.

    Our culture often portrays leadership as the charismatic, sometimes ruthless sort who takes no prisoners in pursuit of certain ends. The value of the objective and the worth of the followers is often compromised or lost in the self-serving actions of the leader. I have run into these types along the way, often a peer or leader envious of another’s accomplishment. These are usually insecure folks…uncomfortable in their own skin.

    Leadership really is all about being of value by establishing the higher purpose of the enterprise and the value of all those on this noble quest, just like Brother Einstein said. Valor is often a term that is missing from our modern leadership lexicon. Valor comes to us from the same Latin word “valeo” as does value. The 1828 Websters says valor means to be strong or to have worth. It is where the tax term “ad valorem” or according to value comes from.

    Webster includes this phrase from Shakespear for clarification…”when valor preys on reason, it eats the sword it fights with”. I have been in situations, combat and otherwise, where pausing to reason, prior to or during actions would have produced anemic or catastrophic results. Sometimes worrying about how a certain action will impact a person’s career is paralyzing. A paralysis of analysis if you will. Establishing a value based matrix clarifies who we are and what we are, directing us always on a vector of the right course of action, irreguardless of our situation and regardless of consequences.

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