Gut Check: Do You Relish In the Success of Others?

Vince Molinaro, Ph.D. Blog

This past year has been another year of fascinating experiences with clients, business leaders and colleagues from around the world.

What better way to finish it off than one last grand trip—this time to the United Kingdom.

On the first day, my colleagues in Ireland organized a great event in Dublin with our key customers. It was amazing watching them in action and seeing the deep relationships they had with everyone in attendance.

The next day, I was in London. During the morning I met with our business development team. Such a great group of energetic and smart professionals fully committed to helping their clients succeed. Then that evening, I spoke to a group of high potential leaders of a large financial services firm. During this session, I had the privilege of watching two of my colleagues facilitate the wrap-up of a powerful day of learning.

While all this was going on, I got an email from a colleague in Singapore, who was revelling in the success he had facilitating a one-day program for a group of leaders based on my book, The Leadership Contract.

Finally, closer to home, I had the chance this past week to also attend and speak at yet another session that another colleague was leading. This company was at an inflection point and was investing in developing its leaders. Another colleague of mine was facilitating the day, and I could sense those leaders were getting a ton of value from the experience.

As I reflected on my week’s experiences, I realized that one of the greatest parts of my job is watching my colleagues work their magic with our clients. And that got me thinking about an important aspect of great leadership—the extent to which leaders relish in the success of the people they lead.

There’s actually a word for it in Sanskrit—”mudita“—which simply translates into the word “joy.” However, its meaning is actually more about the joy a person experiences by witnessing the success of others.

When I think about the truly great leaders I’ve had the privilege to work with—the ones who I admired and who had a big impact on me – they demonstrated abundant mudita. They always valued me, my contributions and where thrilled when my team and I succeed.

However, I’ve also encountered many other leaders who just don’t share this approach. These leaders share a different characteristic described by the German word “schadenfreude.” This word means someone experiences joy or pleasure when another person experiences pain, troubles, failures or humiliation.

These individuals will never give you the benefit of the doubt. So, even if you succeed, they’ll find a way to point out a fault and suck the air out of your sails. I suspect many of them do this because they feel threatened or even jealous of you. So even in the face of a success, they’ll find a way to discredit you. I also suspect they operate from a scarcity mentality. The world is simply divided into winners and losers. So if you win, this means I lose or can’t win.

It’s sad really.

Imagine if you were able to develop a genuine sense of mudita as a leader, how it could change you and your team in dramatic ways. You would be always creating opportunities for others to test their skills and capabilities. You would be always on the lookout for the next big challenge to help them succeed. You would be their biggest cheerleader.

I find leaders who are generous in this way are also the ones who shamelessly promote the accomplishments of others to key stakeholders in the organization. They never take any of the credit, even if they helped you achieve success. Truly extraordinary leaders are even happy if you decide to accept a promotion to another department in your company, if it means an opportunity for you to continue to grow and develop.

Back in December of 2012 I wrote a blog where I shared that the greatest gift a leader can give is the opportunity for someone else to lead. As I reflect on the holiday season approaching us, I would say that another gift a leader can provide to the people she or he leads, is to experience joy in their success.

This week’s gut check for leaders asks: Do you relish in the success of others?

I want to personally wish you all a great holiday season and a safe and prosperous new year. There will be a lot of exciting things that my team and I have been working on that you will learn about in January, including the release of the third edition of The Leadership Contract and the companion Field Guide.

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