Greatness Can’t Be Given

It’s not about a skill set, it’s about a mindset.  This simple phrase is one of the more difficult things for us to understand let alone practice.  I have too many personal examples to actually share here.

I heard an individual speaking about leadership the other day when I made a connection between leadership, specifically servant leadership and parenting.  The simple connection is that both of these areas have to do with service and a desire to make others great. If we go a little deeper though it has to do with human beings fundamental desire to leave an impact on the world after they have left.  In the role of a leader, many of us are preparing the organizations we serve to function just as well if we are not present.  As parents, we want our children to become independent and experience long lasting success after we are gone.


Unfortunately, all too often as leaders, educators, and parents, we become an unwitting block to our own goals.  Helping others achieve more success than they originally thought possible.  We do this by not understanding the following: You can embed the ability to be great in others, but the act itself requires the individual’s own commitment and determination.  Broken down, with my normal phraseology it looks like this:

Purpose: We can assist people in the setting of goals, but if there is to be true commitment and passion; goals must be designed, set, and achieved by those who they benefit the most.  Personalization is key if the determination to achieve them is to be embraced.

Integrity: Long lasting success that is achieved through the support of others comes only through trust.  A persons’ reputation is everything.  That is why we must always model integrity.  No matter how much you try, you cannot force someone to have integrity.  It is that voice that lets people know when they are doing the right thing and not sleep when they have strayed.

Character: Attaining goals, success, and often life are not easy.  How often have we heard people talk about what they could have done or should have done, but instead quit at one of the many obstacles met or mistakes made? How many times have we run into obstacles that, rather than treating them as speed bumps, we treat them as major crashes? There is no way to make a person push through the struggle to improve.  Sure the ability to support them is always present and what many of us would do.  However, the final decision to keep trying rests with the person.  We can always influence, but not act for them.


Every time we remove obstacles rather than offer support we thwart the natural process of growth. The absence of struggle does nothing but cause the absence of a person’s ability to over come hardship.

Therefore whether leaders, educators, or parents; isn’t the main goal to help others become independent and successful? Simon Sinek says that; “When we help ourselves we find moments of happiness when we help others we find lasting fulfillment.” So if we want nothing more than to help those we lead, teach, or parent; we need to make sure we are not having the opposite effect.greatness


We all need to understand that you can embed the ability to be great in others, but the act itself requires the individual’s own commitment and determination.  No matter what we do for others we cannot make them great. We can provide the environment. We can provide the inspiration. We can provide the support, but in the end, it comes down to them. Personal greatness is often a lonely road, but all the better when achieved because it is for no one else but ourselves.  We need to help others through support rather than assistance; through guidance rather than intrusion.  True caring is being there to help them up not keep them from falling.