Envy & Leadership
By Bill Auxier, Ph.D.
When I was in grade school, I tried out for every sports team and was cut from every sports team (see Getting Picked Last Sucks!). I loved sports and loved playing sports, but I did not have the eye-hand coordination or strength needed to compete. In high school, all that changed. I made the football and baseball teams and became a starter on both (basketball is another story). I could have easily given up on playing sports, but I didn’t. Part of that persistence was fueled by envy and jealousy. I wanted so much to be like my buddies!
Much of our success, no matter how you define it, is dependent on our status within a group. Happiness is often determined by comparing ourselves to others. Being worse off than others, no matter how you define worse off, can result in emotions that can be summed up as envy.
While envy can be destructive, it can also be beneficial. Envy can motivate us to increase our standing within the group, just like it motivated me to continue to try out for sports teams when I was young. One of the best ways to become more like the individuals that we envy is by emulating their behaviors.
Envy can be broken down into two categories: malignant envy and benevolent envy. Malignant envy occurs when someone possesses something you do not think they deserve. You may sense injustice, causing you to want to take that person down a notch or two. Benevolent envy is a creative force that provides the energy to learn from another you see as better than you. Deciding to direct or channel feelings of envy into benevolent envy can lead to success.
Effective leaders understand how the emotion of envy can be positive as well as negative in their own behavior. Effective leaders understand how the emotion of envy can be positive as well as negative in the behavior of others. How’s your envy?
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