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Want to Elevate Your Impact? Stop Playing Small!

In the last two weeks, I’m seeing more and more of a particular quality in the folks around me. I’ve seen it before; and it seems to be rearing its head again. It’s a quality – a way of being – that is so counter to the goals of effective leadership – actually, it’s counter to effective living in general, that I’ll confess, it drives me a little bonkers!

Want to know what it is?

It’s the quality of playing small. Gah! What is up with that?? (And let me be clear: I know what it is to play small; I used to do it, I’ve learned the cost of it, and now I want to rid the world of it!)

In case you don’t know what I mean by “playing small”, let me define it a bit. It’s a way of showing up in the world, where you downplay your strengths, talents, gifts. There are all sorts of ways that you might do this, including dismissing compliments, or holding back in a group, or focusing on your perceived areas of weakness without giving any credit to areas of strength.

What I want you to know is that every time you play small, you minimize your positive impact. And, in many ways, you end up having a negative impact – one that’s contrary to the one you want.

The challenge, of course, is that you don’t want to appear arrogant. I get it.

But there’s a difference between being arrogant and standing in your strength. There’s a difference between being full of yourself, and being confident.

Standing in your strengths and showing up with confidence both allow you to lead effectively. Meaningfully. With desired impact, in service of greater vision.

So, for goodness’ sake, if you truly want to elevate your leadership game, then stop playing small. Let me say it again.

Stop. Playing. Small.

Instead, show up in your strength. Actually, let’s pluralize that (because you and I both know that you have numerous strengths). When someone compliments you or points out a particular success, thank them (without minimizing the compliment). And take the time to know what your strengths are. You don’t have to go around preaching about how great you are; you do have to show up, fully, completely as great as you are. In other words, it’s essential to show up in your greatness.

One of my favourite quotes is from the book, Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett: “Excessive pride is a familiar sin, but a man might just as easily frustrate the will of God with excessive humility.”

Stop with the excessive humility. It doesn’t serve you or the world around you. Instead, stand solidly in your strengths. Show up and work from there, and watch your leadership impact ripple out.

Tracy Harvie