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You Can’t Wait to Be Great

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How often have you been disengaged because you saw others disengaged? How often have you said or thought that you’re not going to give 100 percent of your skills and abilities because you think your boss is an idiot, your team is just not worth it or you’re not getting paid enough or don’t have the right title or it’s just not worth your time? This is understandable sometimes, but it’s also illogical.

It’s understandable because you want to feel and see a sense of fairness. But we all know that life’s not fair. What you should be aware of is the fact that you’re always being watched. Whether you want to be or not, you are. And more than just being watched, you’re being judged.

You’re being watched all the time, and people are making judgments about you all the time. If you don’t feel that you have a great leader or boss or manager and therefore are not going to show up in a great way, how then do you show up? If it’s not your best, then it’s something closer to average or worse, and that’s how people see you. So, the fact that you’re waiting for someone around you to be great (or greater) is causing you to not be great. How illogical is that?

You don’t have control over who your boss is. You don’t always have control over who’s on your team. You do, however, have control over how you show up. If you show up in average ways, you’re going to find averageness all around you.

If you think there’s averageness all around you and you show up in the great way you’re capable of, you’ll start to see the average get better. People aren’t watching you only to make judgments; more likely, they’re watching you to take cues as to how to make sense of a very complex world and, in turn, how to act themselves. When they see mediocrity, they’ll base their expectations around that level of performance and come to believe that averageness is okay, desired or maybe even the best that’s possible.

Ryan Russell, who leads the human-centered design work at Amazon, reminded me that there’s a big difference in knowing the difference between average and great. He said, “When you have great people, you attract great people. Great people make people feel great.”

That, in part, is what the best leaders do. And it’s what the best followers do, too. Through our actions, we help enable people to do great things and in that process, we attract great people, and they also attract great people. If we have an average manager, we can help that person get better. If we have an average teammate, we can help that person get better. But we can help them get better only if we choose to be great all the time.

Remember, excellence is not an exception. You can’t wait to have a great leader or great teammates for you to show up in a great way. Make the conscious decision to show up great and to be great all the time. Now you might think that “all the time” is a lot. Yes, it is. The greatest leaders know that the best never give up their enthusiasm to be great and to do great things. They make the decision to be great every day. Louie Ehrlich, the former president and chief information officer at Chevron said, “Everything you do has an influence, whether you like it or not.” There’s no escaping that fact as a leader. You’re always being watched, and your actions are always influencing others.

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About Tim Rahschulte, Ph.D. (Full Bio)

Chief Executive Officer, The Professional Development Academy

Tim Rahschulte is the CEO of the Professional Development Academy and chief architect of the NACo High Performance Leadership Program ( He is the co-author of “My Best Advice: Proven Rules for Effective Leadership.”