As U.S. President Lyndon Johnson exited the White House to board a helicopter, he began speaking at a distance with the waiting press corps. On this day, there were two helicopters in service. One for the president, the other for the group of dignitaries who had just met with Johnson.
At one point, the president turned his back to the helicopters as he spoke to the reporters. As he took steps backwards, he unknowingly began moving toward the wrong helicopter, the one reserved for the other party. A Secret Service agent decided to rectify the situation and whispered into Johnson’s ear, “Sir, that’s the wrong craft. That’s not your helicopter.” Johnson smiled from ear to ear, put his arm around the agent, and replied, “Son, they’re all my helicopters.”
Ego creates many vulnerabilities, but perhaps none is more insidious than the false belief that leaders “own” things. Leaders, even entrepreneurs, don’t own what they create or lead. They are stewards who are blessed to hold the prize in their hands for the time being and nurture it for others who will lead it in the future.
When we believe we own things — people, places, businesses, ideas — we behave in ways unfitting of a leader. This usually results in trouble, sometimes disaster. When we engage as stewards, we take a long-term view that usually benefits everyone, including ourselves in the short term.
Be careful about what you think you own. Don’t let your ego loose with a shopping bag. Be a steward and engage to the benefit of everyone. We can thank you for it now and in the future.
PS: Join us today, October 12, for the Admired Leadership Community Conference. The morning sessions are free and open for all attendees. If you can’t make it, register and we will send you the recordings. Find out more here. We’d love to have you join us!