Successful Leaders Do Stuff Differently | #4 Don’t Compare Yourself

One noticeable characteristic of successful leaders is that they don’t secretly compare or compete with other leaders in an unhealthy way. That’s not to say that it is not tempting to look at others and think of another leader, “Wow I wish I had the character quality or skill…” But at the end of the day, if that is your pattern, you will be paralyzed by comparison.

Be yourself personally and organizationally

God made you unique. There is no one else like you. And he wants you to live up to the full potential of who he made you to be. And the same goes for your organization… successful leaders know who they are and avoid the temptation to try to be someone else. Here are a few passages of Scripture that are a reminder that God loves you just the way you are:

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. -Psalm 139:13-1

You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you. -Song of Solomon 4:7

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” -1 Samuel 16:7

Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. -1 Peter 3:3-4

Don’t Look Over your Shoulder or you’ll Drop the Baton

When I was in jr. high I had the privilege of running the last leg of the 400 meter relay. One time when the baton was being passed to me, I glanced back at the guy in the next lane who was gaining on me. Because my eyes were on him, I didn’t focus on the baton being handed to me, so I dropped it. Luckily I was able to catch the guy and we still won … Umm…okay, I wish that was the way the race ended. Actually we lost. Lesson learned.

The Apostle Paul seemed to camp on this theme in several letters he wrote to the churches encouraging them to focus on pursuing Jesus and not worrying about what everyone else was doing:

Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life. -Galatians 6:4 (MSG)

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. -Philippians 4:8

Realize that Those who Follow you are Watching you like a Hawk

Even though we’d all like to deny this, the reality is that people will imitate you. If you lead a ministry in a church, or if you are the director of a camp etc., people will notice your habits. They’ll pick up on what’s important to you. If you are always looking around for what others are doing and how you can be like them, then you won’t be a consistent model for others to follow.

Who are you Going to Be?

For example… If its important for your staff to stay in good shape because you lead outdoor trips, then decide to be a disciplined runner. Offer to pay for half the cost of a new pair of running shoes to encourage them. If it is important for your staff or volunteers in your organization to be hospitable to your clients or guests at your camp, then figure out what hospitality looks like and model it. Open up your home, pay for people’s coffee when you meet with them, when you hear someone in your group discussing a need they have, be the first one to show up at their doorstep to help. Buy your staff and key volunteers a gift that would be meaningful to them every now and then to communicate how important they are to you.

An Outdoor Leadership Application

In an outdoor leadership setting, focus on learning what you can from other leaders’ style and technique, but don’t get caught up in trying to be like them. Being around other leaders who lead in the outdoors can be intimidating because they are such fantastic experiential educators. This can lead to a breakdown in community because everyone wants to be the best. So choose to gratefully receive what you learn from others and simply allow that to inform and sharpen your own personal style of leadership. Here is a good saying to memorize: Rather than trying to guide like someone else,

…set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. -Colossians 3:1

Don’t fall prey to comparing yourself to others. Just be yourself and be a good model for others to follow.

A Classic Case Study on Avoiding the Temptation to Compare Yourself to Others

The Apostle Paul had a mature view on the potential competition that could have arisen between he and another dynamic leader named Apollos. Take note on how Paul handled this… here is a primer on the pitfalls of comparison, and the blessing of believing in the sovereignty of God:

But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ.  I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready,  for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?  For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human?

What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each.  I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.  So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.  He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. (1 Corinthians 3:1-8)

Paul knew a secret of effective leadership: You can accomplish more if you don’t care who gets the credit.

Other Blog Posts in the Series: