The Damage of Comparison
Individuals who compare themselves to others are not fit to be leaders. Think that is an audacious statement? Give me two minutes to show you why.
The ideal in any area - business, personal, or otherwise - is for the graph of results and experiences to move up and to the right. While we would love the line to only move in a positive up-right progression, the reality is that the line moves up and down as we experience set backs, new opportunities, and successes. Even though the trend may be up and to the right, there are a lot of squiggles (read ups and downs) along the way.
Most of us readily agree it’s the trend that matters.
The problem is while we may understand the point of trends over time, we don’t naturally look only at the trend when comparing.
Let’s say you have a peer who always seems to be a step ahead of you. You have a great job and he has a job with better pay. You have a nice car and he has your dream car. You have a nice house and he has a house with larger square footage and a beachfront pool in the backyard. His Instagram account shows many smiles and incredible locations. This guy just seems to have it together in every way you want.
Its about here that we acquiesce to the negative power of comparison and before we know it we are putting his graph of results against ours and seeing what we perceive to be a huge discrepancy. We are suddenly unhappy with our great job, nice car, nice house, and family vacations. We want his graph.
When we want what we don’t have, our focus moves away from improving ourselves and those around us, which is foundational in leadership.
How do leaders prevent comparison? They insert proximity.
Proximity gives balance.
When we only see the up-right trend of someone else’s graph it means we aren’t close enough to see the huge jagged peaks and valleys in our peer’s experience. We aren’t close enough to know his oldest child is struggling with a difficult diagnosis. We aren’t close enough to see his marriage and relationships are on the rocks. We aren’t close enough to know he feels incompetent at work and wonders how long his job will last.
The farther away we are from someone, the “cleaner” their graph looks; we think they have it all put together and start comparing. The closer you come the more you see the dramatic squiggles. You then recognize what they need isn’t comparison, but compassion and grace. Just like you.
An authentic leader is with. People cannot be served, helped, or supported from a distance.
Being with requires proximity.
As we are with those whom we serve, we see the humanness and it is much easier to have grace to know no one is perfect. This understanding prevents comparison and makes it so much easier to see that everyone struggles, including us.
It is then that we can come along side to be with each other in those squiggles. It is then we can stop comparing and start leading.