About 15 years ago, I hired a young man for a junior-level sales role. He didn't have much experience, but I saw a promising amount of potential in him.
Over the years, he delivered on that potential by reaching his sales goals quarter after quarter and demonstrating an increasing maturity, business acumen, and sophistication. As he grew under my mentorship and his own natural drive, he earned well-deserved recognition, increased his income exponentially, and began to lead teams of his own, eventually succeeding me when I left for a different division. But he didn't stop there. He rose rapidly within the company ... so rapidly, in fact, that he eventually eclipsed me.
The junior employee I'd hired a decade earlier shot past me to the very top of our organization--and now he's my boss. He decides my compensation, my team's size and budget, and the direction of my career. If I ever get fired, he'll be the one to do it. Awkward, right?
It doesn't have to be. I used to pride myself on having one of the fastest and steepest career ascents in the company. The wiser and more mature I've become as a leader, the more I've realized my job is to help others rise, even beyond my own stature.
The process wasn't easy, but I've learned how to set aside my ego and figured out that being truly successful means being confident enough to celebrate the people I've nurtured passing me on the career ladder.
Learning how to shun professional envy is one of the best things I've done for myself and my career. This is my blueprint.
Embrace Your Feelings
Prepare for a deluge of sometimes-conflicting emotions as you watch people climb above you on the corporate ladder. When my boss leapfrogged me, I felt pangs of jealousy and embarrassment. But I also felt pride knowing that I helped him grow and helped lay the foundation for his success.
Let yourself feel the jealousy, then ask yourself why you feel that way--it may reveal important information about your own career and situation. Are you unhappy with your compensation? Are you feeling stagnant in your role? Is it time you sought more challenges and stretch assignments? Were you up for the same job? Do you even want that job?
Reflect on your career successes and triumphs--the awards, the promotions, the raises, the accolades, and the bonuses. Chances are you didn't accomplish these alone. Think about the people who helped you rise, including the ones you leapfrogged along the way, and pause to feel sincere gratitude for all you've achieved and received. I would highly recommend that you don't stop with introspection--write those mentors and advocates a quick note of appreciation for their help with your career.
Stop Comparing Yourself With Others
We all measure ourselves against others at one time or another. For many of us, it feels like an effective way to gauge our career progression, but there's a fine line between benchmarking and falling victim to the comparison conundrum.
Each of us has different talents, skills, goals, and motivations. Comparing ourselves with our peers is counterproductive: We not only gain nothing by focusing our energies on comparison, we actually squander our limited time and energy without any benefit to our goals and careers.
When you stop comparing yourself with other people, you can focus on your own growth. It's far more productive to invest that mental energy thinking about where you want to go next, what you want to learn, and what you're striving to achieve than it is to focus on why you're not on someone else's career path.
Remember that being a leader means growing other people. It means making the organization stronger and creating more stars than you found when you started. There isn't any greater satisfaction than that for a leader--once you push your ego out of the way.