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Best Leadership Self

Surround Yourself With ‘Good’ People

Why Being Your Best Self as a Leader Really Matters

by Neil Rosenbaum

Earlier this year I watched the series Justified, a cops and robbers show about the life of a US Marshall based in the mountains of North Carolina. It’s a good show that is hard to stop watching, but it’s not typically full of leadership inspirations. However, in one episode, I heard a quote that I will always remember. It is great advice to help you be your best self as a leader, and I’ve repeated it many times as I talk to friends and business associates.

The lead character, Raylan Givens (played by Timothy Olyphant), delivers this lesson to a serial criminal who always seems to blames his bad fortune on others:

“Meet an a$$hole in the morning, you met an a$$hole. Meet a$$holes all day… YOU are the a$$hole.”

The lesson for me here is that if you think everyone else is wrong all the time, maybe you should be looking in the mirror instead of at those around you.

It resonated with me because I’ve experienced so many situations where people blame their luck, job performance, financial situation, or other personal responsibilities on others. Raylan is saying to look inside, not out, to be your best self as a leader.

How does this relate to, “Surround yourself with ‘good people’”? When I pause and think about my current teammates, I reflect that they are all terrific people, and terrific performers as well. They inspire me, they push me, they provide an environment where I can flourish. As Dave Casullo said in Leading The High Energy Culture (McGraw Hill), “I can be my ‘best leadership self.'”

It occurred to me that I could take Raylan’s wise words and make them my own.

“Meet a good person in the morning, you met a good person. Meet good people all day, YOU are (also) a good person.”

Why is this important?

We all know that “culture eats strategy for breakfast” (Peter Drucker).

In Good to Great, Jim Collins instructs that your first move as a leader in making a great company is to get the “right” people on the bus and in the right seats. In fact, he says:

“The good-to-great leaders understood [a] simple truth. If you begin with “who,” rather than “what,” you can more easily adapt to a changing world. If people join the bus primarily because of where it is going, what happens if you get ten miles down the road and you need to change direction? You’ve got a problem. But if people are on the bus because of who else is on the bus, then it’s much easier to change direction.”

If, as a leader, you follow this advice, you’ll meet “good people” all day. The energy will be palpable and your team will create a force with which to be reckoned. As I look back on my career and the great leaders that I worked for, they all created this atmosphere with a team that was able to work together, shared the vision, and were passionate about success… and supporting each other. They clearly knew how to “be your best self” as leaders.

Aaron Rodgers, quarterback of the Green Bay Packers, says it this way: “Surround yourself with really good people. I think that’s an important thing. Because the people you surround yourself with are a reflection of you.”

So, what is a good person? Gerard Adams, contributing author, defined a “good person” in a work environment with the following four descriptors in his article in Entrepreneur Magazine:

  • A relentless worker
  • A positive attitude
  • People who ask questions
  • Dreamers

When thinking about who you surround yourself with, your personal life, your community life, and your work life are all important. The same reality is true for all, as is the need for your strong leadership.

The value in creating this positive, winning, and productive environment is more important now than ever. Glassdoor reports that 54% of employees are confident that if they quit or lost their jobs they would be able to find a comparable job within six months. Many, if not most, of these team members are talented and valuable to your company. Every leader knows the very high tangible and intangible costs of turnover.

Another factor in today’s workplace is that the style of millennials is also “rubbing off” on other generations. That is, millennials are often changing jobs to maximize fulfillment, compensation, and purpose. Or they take time off to travel, study, or reflect on their next “gig.” Creating an environment where people enjoy the workplace and feel both valued and valuable, and that has a family feel will certainly affect turnover positively.

So, when you get to your office, think deeply and ask: “Am I surrounded with good people?” If not, then maybe it’s time to look in the mirror.

Being your best self as a leader all starts with you.


Digging Deeper into Why Surrounding Yourself With Good People Matters

The 4 Types of People to Surround Yourself With for Success –
Great Employees Are Not Replaceable –
7 Qualities of a Good Employee and Candidate –

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