Me, my, and I are words that speak loudly about the identity of a leader. The frequency of their use in a leader’s vocabulary can be an identifying mark of their leadership style.
Generally, I envy those people that can rattle off the year, the day, and the time of a moment that impacted their journey. I cannot remember the specific year, date, or time, but I distinctly remember this moment. My best guess is that it happened about fifteen years ago.
I have served on the Acworth Business Association for more than eighteen years. We hold monthly luncheons and invite speakers to come in to address the membership. The speakers range from experts in a particular area of business, leadership communication, and the political world. In this case, it was the latter.
Me, My, and I
After a few minutes into the speech, I pulled out a pen and started keeping a tally sheet of the times the person used the words me, my, and I. It only took a few more minutes for me to put the pen back in my pocket. I would end up needing that pen again at some point and didn’t want to use up all the ink!
The person consistently talked about legislation that “I passed.” Last I checked there are 56 Senators and 180 State Representatives in the Georgia General Assembly. You didn’t pass the legislation yourself! It required committee work and a vote of the majority of the House and Senate to make it a law. That was just one example of the literary abuse of me, my, and I that day.
Words mean something. They can either tell a story directly, or indirectly. In the case of me, my, and I, they tell an indirect story. So…what can the frequent use of these three words tell us about a person? Here are three characteristics of people that overuse the words me, my, and I.
Although the speaker held a position of power, they were merely projecting insecurity. They obviously felt the need to overcompensate for something. When someone’s vocabulary is dominated with the use of me, my, and I, insecurity reigns heavy in their world.
Insecurity is not a leadership characteristic that we desire to possess. While we do not desire insecurity, it can grow inside us the further we go in leadership. We should be constantly aware of its capabilities.
What makes insecurities grow in a leader? Because we gain critics the higher we go. Dale Carnegie said it this way, “Any fool can criticize, complain, and condemn, and most do.” We Can Count on Critics to meet us at every intersection of our leadership journeys. They choose to use their influence to negatively impact the psyche of a leader.
Great leaders fight, resist, and overcome their insecurities. They do not succumb to the Haters.
The speaker spent their allotted time self-promoting. They were more interested in promoting perceived personal achievements for selfish gain. It was all about them. In this instance, it was likely generated out of ambitions for higher office or seeking re-election.
I enjoy reading Patrick Lencioni books. He wrote one of my favorite books of all time called the Ideal Team Player. He says that the Ideal Team Player is, “Humble, Hungry, and Smart.” Of the three, he considers humility to be the most important. C.S. Lewis once said that, “True humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.” Humility is the antithesis of selfishness. You can’t be both at the same time.
Our Mayor, Tommy Allegood, has a sign above his door that says, “It’s not about me.” Every time we walk out of his office, it is a stark reminder of who we should be as public servants. The path to success in leadership is not paved with self-promotion.
Great leaders require zero self-promotion. Their genuineness, authenticity, and humility speaks for itself.
The speaker’s comments were full of words that drew credit away from the General Assembly and redirected the credit towards themself. The accomplishments of the legislative body took a backseat to their need for exclusive credit. If you were in the room that day and unfamiliar with the legislative process, you would have thought everything good in the State of Georgia ran through this person.
I tend to subscribe to this theory. When there is blame to be assigned, the leader steps out from amongst the team and steps forward into the spotlight. When there is credit to be assigned, the leader takes a step back and ushers the team into the spotlight.
When we take credit, we are exclusive. When we redirect credit to the team, we are inclusive. Distance is created with exclusivity, great teams are formed through inclusivity.
I am comfortable writing about this particular speaker because shortly after that event, they were not re-elected to office. In fact, they lost the race to a secure, humble, and inclusive leader. The three qualities the leader did not possess.
Now…before you go pulling your tally sheet out, start with the person in The Mirror. That person that you face every day in the mirror. What does your leadership vocabulary consist of?
It was easy for me to keep someone else’s score that day, but it is a whole lot harder to keep my own personal score. My hopes are that this post provokes thought and awareness of your own vocabulary. Words matter and can indirectly tell your story.
Me, my, and I should be minimized and we, our, and us should be maximized. A simple vocabulary change can redirect the journey of our leadership. Give it a try. WE can do this.