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Leadership Lesson #3 is to lighten up a little and not take life quite so seriously. In other words, be able to laugh at yourself, and leave your ego at home in a jar. This doesn't mean that we shouldn't recognize and celebrate achievements by ourselves or others. We all need to be recognized for our talents and accomplishments.

But humility is an underrecognized leadership trait, especially when it is a true part of character. Haden and Jenkins (2017, para. 11) agree: "Leaders who embrace and seek to internalize the virtue of humility do not simply fade into the background, as some might imagine. Ultimately, they are the fittest, the strongest, and the most capable of leading."

The reality, though, is that sometimes we take ourselves far too seriously. Indeed, most people take themselves far more seriously than anyone else does. Ringer (n.d.) suggests it's very easy to fall into the trap of blowing things out of proportion, demanding perfection, and acting as though your needs are at the center of the universe. When this happens, you lose yourself, your center, and your perspective.

Taking ourselves too seriously also reduces our risk-taking, because we are so afraid of failure that we make no attempt to succeed. This fear of making a mistake or not being perfect can be paralyzing. We are all human and make mistakes, and being embarrassed by the mistakes we make is a universal experience. "It takes confidence to look failure in the face and keep moving forward because, if we are confident in ourselves and our ability, we look at failure as part of the fine-tuning process" (Quy, 2017, para. 13).


-Wayne Gretzky (as cited in BrainyQuote, n.d.)

In taking our mistakes so seriously, we forget that most mistakes are recoverable. That doesn't mean they don't hurt or aren't embarrassing. For example, several years ago, I did a presentation on nursing's public image as part of a regional research conference. In my conclusion, I included a slide of a very small Chihuahua standing face to face with a very large Great Dane. The large-font caption on the slide was, "Never be afraid to say what you think." Little did I know that, inserted on the slide in a very small font, were several very profane words coming out of the Chihuahua's mouth. The font was too small to read on my small computer screen at home, but it was very readable on the large screen at the front of the auditorium. I had no idea what was on my slide until I heard my audience collectively gasp and begin whispering about what they saw on the screen.

I have probably never been more embarrassed in my professional life. I did gain a lot of insight about checking and double-checking slides for every presentation I have given since. ...

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