A few years ago on NPR radio’s “Fresh Air” program, they did a tribute to Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, the famous mezzo-soprano who died that week at age 52 after a long illness.
Lloyd Schwartz said of her, “She went from triumph to triumph, yet never became a Diva, never lost her sense of purpose, or her sense of humor about herself.”
In the world of opera where everyone wants to play the starring role, to be the Diva, she remained modest, true to herself and her art.
Modesty is an underrated business trait. When our egos get in the way, we lose touch with the deepest part of ourselves and we no longer communicate with customers in a true sense of partnership and friendship. For me, the spark of satisfaction is a deep, resounding “click” inside me when I’ve done good work. When ego arises, I’m no longer listening to my inner self or to others; I’m only listening to my emotional need for attention.
Have you ever worked with a person so stuck on themselves that they aren’t really listening to you? Have you ever hired someone who spent more time bragging about their greatness (or educational pedigree, or whom they know) than on helping you with your own challenges and dreams? It absolutely drains the energy out of the interaction when you’re asked to idolize the people you hire, and leaves you feeling exhausted, or worse, annoyed. No one wants to feel “less than” someone they work with. No one likes hiring a deity as their consultant or teacher.
Tom Gardner of The Motley Fool was asked recently to comment on the difference between Warren Buffet (CEO, Berkshire Hathaway) and Kenneth Lay (CEO, Enron) and the culture they created as the head of their companies. He said, “I try to see what traits travel with greatness among leaders, and what traits travel with impending failure.” He continues, “Enron really had an very arrogant and hard-driving culture very focused on the next three months of business. Warren Buffet is very well known throughout his professional career for having demonstrated humility. I think humility and arrogance is something that anyone should look at, whether it’s an organization you’re working at or a company you’re thinking about investing in.”
I never want to be a Diva or Prima Donna. I’ll never take on the label of Goddess or Queen in my marketing tag line. I don’t want to live 100% of my life on center stage. I’d rather live for the future growth, stability and reputation of my company, not the next three month’s of profit.
I choose to stay grounded, natural and approachable, connected to my clients and their needs. It’s more important that I be true to my values and philosophies, a consummate artist in the business world, constantly honing my craft. When I die, I want my clients to say, “She was a selfless mentor and teacher, a life long learner, an honorable partner, and a graceful friend.”