The true secret of sustainable success

By Scott Westerman
Sustainable success and self esteem are interconnected. The best leaders turn the act of strengthening self confidence into a high art.

Keith Murnighan is the author of one of the best management books of the year. “Do Nothing. How to Stop Overmanaging and Become a Great Leader,” has a misleading title. The best leaders, in fact, do a lot. But the secret of their success is all about the people who surround them. As Keith Writes, “The first major, unnatural solution for leaders is to shift their focus, to start thinking less about their own desires and perspectives and more about their team members’ desires and perspectives.”

“The worst loneliness,” Mark Twain wrote, “is to not be comfortable with yourself.”

Authentic interest in someone else helps build the true foundation of sustainable success: self esteem.

“Everything that happens to you.” says Iyanla Vanszant, “is a reflection of what you believe about yourself. We cannot outperform our level of self-esteem. We cannot draw to ourselves more than we think we are worth.”

The best leaders bring out the best in ourselves.

So if you’re a leader tasked with resuscitating a failing team, where do you begin? You begin by building the team’s self esteem. This is the first step in my own four-step turn around formula:

  • Build their self esteem so that they believe they can win.
  • Teach them what success means and how to measure it.
  • Give them the tools and help them develop the skills to succeed.
  • Keep out the distractions and stay out of their way.

Neel Burton, writing in Psychology Today, tells us, “People with long-term low self-esteem generally see the world as a hostile place and themselves as its victim. As a result, they feel reluctant to express and assert themselves, miss out on experiences and opportunities, and feel helpless about changing things. All this merely lowers their self-esteem even further, and they end up getting caught in a downward spiral.”

But there is always hope. In his article, entitled “Hide and Seek- Understanding self-deception, self-sabotage, and more” he lists 17 ways to build your own self esteem. On that list are many of the things we talk about during our weekly time together: stay healthy, exercise, eat the right things, get enough sleep, tackle your challenges in bite sized pieces, allow yourself to do some of the things you enjoy, while building the self discipline to take on the tasks you have been putting off.

Imagine a workplace with these imperatives ingrained into the culture. Wouldn’t you love to have a career in that environment?

People with healthy self esteem take humble pride in what they do. They are more likely to make good decisions. And their feeling of self worth can shield them from the buffeting winds of negativity that often seem to come from every direction.

“Giving people self-confidence,” advises former GE CEO Jack Welch, “is by far the most important thing that I can do.”

You don’t have to be in management to help build someone’s self esteem. Our study of servant leadership has taught us that some of the greatest leaders exist deep within the organizational chart. Often an encouraging friend can be the catalyst for great achievement. And something else happens when you help others gain self confidence: Your’s increases, too.

One of the best definitions of healthy pride I’ve heard is, “The feeling of satisfaction in knowing that you are effectively contributing towards someone else’s happiness.”

Lao Tzu distills it for us this way: “Health is the greatest possession. Contentment is the greatest treasure. Confidence is the greatest friend.”

Where are these three treasures to be found? Wrapped up in positive self esteem.