In order for you to be successful, you do not have to be the smartest person in the room. This is relieving news for someone like me who is of average intelligence. Many studies have been done on Fortune 500 CEO’s who have achieved success in their respective careers and it was learned that there were a few traits that many of them had in common. Humility and empathy were among the virtues that they possessed.
After learning about the study, I started to pay attention to the people around me in formal leadership roles. I watched how they worked and how they related to others and it started to become abundantly clear that the ones who were effective were the ones who had a high level of emotional intelligence. But then I started to notice all the people in informal roles that were doing great work and I started to question what it means to be successful.
Merriam-Webster defines success as "getting or achieving wealth, respect, or fame,” but I think it’s so much more than that.
Rising to the top executive level of an organization certainly would translate into achievement; however, some people don’t aspire to move up to a formal position in the hierarchy of their organizations. Furthermore, we have all had experiences with those who have attained positions of authority who we would not consider successful leaders.
Success for me is loosely defined because the benchmark is always different. For example, I would consider a police officer successful who uses their skills and influence to achieve the best possible outcome for a citizen. The men and women who put a uniform on every day and enforce the law with compassion and even-handedness; the ones who do their very best in every encounter – they are successful even if they aren’t in a position of rank.
I received an e-mail from a citizen not too long ago who told me that she had an interaction with a police officer that made her lose faith in our police department. The incident occurred near her home where officers responded to a person with a weapon. The citizen said she remained in her home watching the action from an upstairs window when she noticed a man walk to a truck and get into it after most of the officers had left the scene. She felt as though she needed to pass that information onto the officers who remained so she came outside to speak with them. Apparently the officer responded by saying, “Do you want my badge?” implying that she was attempting to do his job.
This citizen was so offended by his comment and she said he made her feel worthless. When I spoke with the officer, I learned that humor was his intent but he realized by her reaction, that it was a failed attempt. On his own volition, he advised me that he wished to go back and speak with her.
I received a follow-up e-mail from the citizen whose faith had been restored in this officer and the collective police department.
The officer involved is one I know to be empathic and compassionate but at the moment, he made a mistake in judgment. In being confronted, he chose to right the wrong. When a person can stand tall and admit their mistakes and attempt to correct them, I consider them successful.
It’s showing up every day and giving your very best and not losing your enthusiasm even in the midst of failures.
My favorite poet, Brian Andreas, says this: “Anyone can slay a dragon.. but try waking up every morning and loving the world all over again. That's what takes a real hero.”
So success is not just in the big milestones. It’s actually better defined in the small moments of our lives when we bring the best of ourselves.