What’s the first thing you think of when you hear the word greatness? Do you think of a visionary leader you once worked for or aspire to be? Does the brilliant jerk in your office who you have a love hate relationship with come to mind? Or maybe you recall that report you rocked last week or the magnificent sunset you woke up to this morning?
When I say greatness I’m not talking about the genius or charismatic leader (although I do have a secret obsession with Bobby Axelrod), the all-star athlete, or the boastful over-achieving colleague with a long list of accolades who never stops talking about themselves.
I’m talking about the greatness that creates a human being or this amazing oxygen producing system we call a planet without needing a detailed strategic plan. The kind that calls forth the highest and best expression of ourselves, our values and our contributions. The kind that unleashes creativity and synergy within and between us as we work together to fulfill a common mission.
Turns out awakening and fostering authentic greatness in ourselves and in our collective environments is actually transformational rather than the ego clashing arrogance fest we might imagine.
The trouble is most of us have had our authentic greatness conditioned out of us by the time we leave school. Take those same folks conditioned by a context of scarcity, separation and competition and put them in a team environment and suddenly we need a ton of structure, incentives and policies to produce greatness or in some cases just avoid mediocrity.
The high levels of disengagement, burnout and turnover in many industries indicate that these methods aren’t producing the dividends we’d hoped for.
So how do we get back to greatness? That unfettered flow of creativity, innovation, presence and connection that naturally imbues our way of being, and evokes our highest and best expression in doing and working together?
Greatness is available to us at all times, we have only to relearn how to access it. Like Michelangelo’s David, it’s more about removing the obstructions and unlearning the conditions that hinder our greatness rather than trying to develop something from scratch.
What stands in the way of greatness for most adults is our survival and self-preservation tendencies. So much of our time and energy at work is being diverted or clouded by avoiding failure, looking good, holding onto social power at all costs, and doing whatever it takes to best the next guy. Just look at the breakdown of leadership in US society and politics right now and you’ll see this playing out as the best of the worst.
When we assume greatness rather than scarcity as our context, we create the conditions for folks to drop their defensive armour and survival postures, and redirect that energy towards bringing out the best in each other, and integrating our values and contributions in service to something greater. When we shift our context from scarcity-driven survival, competition and self-preservation, we get access to a whole new form of creative currency and value exchange.