We are all humans. We tend to focus on those around us at every stage of our life, finding different comparisons. No matter how successful we get, we still have those human attributes that help us in our life and work and can lead us to get in our own way.

Comparisons can be detrimental

I was asked to step in and lead a large and impactful project in my mid-20s. It sounded like an exciting and challenging opportunity. But, I didn’t realize the full effect of the project at the time.

At that time in my career, I rarely interacted with any of the most senior leaders in my division. Since I didn’t have that interaction, I assumed that once you got to a high level of leadership, you had it all together. You were confident and communicated effectively. You’d mastered all those reactive behavior patterns people get stuck in.

After all, in my limited interactions with these leaders, they seemed to have it all together.

I can now laugh at younger Amy’s version of the world. I made a lot of comparisons, but I truly believed that growing older meant you figured it all out.

They aren’t always what they’re cracked up to be

When I attended a few meetings with the senior leaders for this new project I was leading, I was surprised. They did not have it all together. And they definitely could have communicated more effectively!

I spotted more reactive behaviors (taking control, arguing, throwing people under the bus) than positive leadership traits. This experience gave me the insight that we all have a long way to go to develop into and consistently be the kind of people and leaders we want to be. 

My comparisons were tied to my “inside” versus the “outside” versions I knew of these leaders

I knew I was feeling less than confident in this new role. I felt like an imposter because I didn’t have the answers, nor did I necessarily have the questions to ask. When I looked at them, I looked at the external portrayal they showed to everyone (except their peers).

They appeared confident and seemed to know which questions to ask. They were direct and decisive, which meant they knew the answers, right?

But their insides weren’t that simple.

I’m still determining what thoughts, doubts, or feelings they had inside, but based on their behaviors; they weren’t as confident or as effective as they appeared. 

Comparisons do you no favors

Comparing your inside thoughts and feelings (lack of confidence, self-doubt, stress, rattled, not composed) to someone else’s external persona does not do you any favors.

You may wish that you felt that confident, that strong in your conviction, or that decisive. But you don’t know what’s going on underneath. It’s great to strive and shift the way others experience your leadership. But drop the comparisons. The comparison likely isn’t accurate and takes far too much energy from you. 

Leadership is learning out loud. It’s making mistakes, owning them, shifting, becoming more self-aware, continuously learning, and widening our perspectives.

It’s messy and human, and we all experience it, no matter what level of professional success we have earned.