THERE’S A SAYING in the military: Rank has its privileges. It’s absolutely true. The trappings that accompany the highest military ranks can include aides, personal drivers and even cooks, to name just a few. The best leaders I’ve worked with knew that these trappings were ephemeral and often the result of luck, albeit mixed with hard work and ability.
Not every leader—whether they served in the military, corporate America or elsewhere—understands this. After retirement, Joe DiMaggio famously required announcers to introduce him as the “greatest living ballplayer” whenever he made a public appearance. I always found this sad and a little embarrassing. No one needed to be reminded that he was great. Yet, by doing so, DiMaggio seemed a little less great.
Eventually, we all hang up our cleats, pack up our office or put on that uniform for the final time. Few of us will be remembered many years after our retirement. Indeed, I pass by the pictures of dead Texas politicians every day and, despite my attempts to be a voracious consumer of history, I’ve heard of very few of them. I sincerely doubt more than a couple of people in my building think at all about the photos or who these long-dead leaders were.
Still, we have the opportunity to have a lasting impact—by being good stewards of our profession. I believe we do so by making our best effort at work and by helping others. You’ve no doubt heard the adage, “They always remember how you made them feel.” It isn’t clear who said it first. But the premise resonates with all of us.
The trappings of a job can easily become a trap. But the impact we have on others is what lasts long after we leave.