February 2012 Newsletter

Blue Ridge Conference

“When people decide that you’re not ready for an opportunity, don’t do anything to prove them right.”


By Anthony Koch*

As you by now have figured out, we tend to start out these musings by reflecting on a quote that has inspired us to be (better) leaders ourselves. Well, my inspirational quote doesn’t come from anyone famous (at least not yet), but it’s been advice I’ve come back to time and again in my professional life.

Mine came from a colleague named Ray. Ray was mentoring a group of us and he shared a story about the first time he was overlooked for a promotion at work. Finding himself now working for the individual who had been promoted over him, Ray did everything he could to prove to “them” that he should have been chosen for the job: he questioned every decision his new supervisor made, he mocked him behind his back, and worse. And eventually he realized: he had just proven that he hadn’t been the person for the job. His words of wisdom to us were: “When people decide that you’re not ready for an opportunity, don’t do anything to prove them right.”

This is a great lesson in leadership and in self-leadership. When I catch myself acting in a less-than-leaderly way (Yes, I wrote “leaderly.” Languaging is an undervalued skill in life), I actually ask myself, “Am I acting in a way that would eliminate someone’s doubt or am I merely validating it?” More times than I’d care to admit, I am not acting as a leader should.

We owe it to ourselves and to those around us to “walk the leadership talk” and do all we can to instill confidence in those whom we serve. When I was overlooked for a promotion, I remembered Ray’s words and did everything I could to show my new supervisor that I supported her and that my ideas could make her look even better. We had a very positive working relationship and, when she left to start a family two years later, her endorsement of me helped me to secure the position she was vacating. And with the 20/20 vision that only hindsight can provide, I realize that I truly wasn’t ready for the opportunity the first time. But by acting leaderly, I gained a mentor who truly prepared me for leadership opportunities. Had I given in to my pettiness, I would never have had the chance to prove myself. But, thanks to Ray, I proved myself several times over and was rewarded as a result.

When you’re faced with a disappointment in life, I can only hope you’ll be able to benefit from Ray’s wise advice and not have to learn this lesson the hard way. I will always be grateful that I was able to learn from Ray’s mistake and hope that he’ll inspire you as much as he did me.

* Anthony Koch is the Director of Training for W.S. Badcock Corporation and is the Program Chair for the Blue Ridge Conference on Leadership.

1. Save the dates for the 2012 Blue Ridge Conference - October 10-12, 2012

2. View our "Leadership Lessons" video with John Knapp!



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