The Art Of Being Important

Being humble means recognising we are not on earth to see how important we can become, but to see how much difference we can make in the lives of others’. This quote from Gordon B Hinckley was given by host Adriaan Groenewald on the Leadership Platform Show on recently. An inspirational discussion on the show followed with guests Thabo Seopa, CEO of Trudon (Yellow Pages), Rich Simmonds, well known thought leader in his own right and author of Mug and Tweet, and co-host Louis Groenewald.

The following leadership principles were discussed:

The human inclination of trying to be important is often due to lack of wisdom and maturity. It is ironic that most enduring good reputations have been achieved by unselfish service, rather than by trying to be important. Nelson Mandela was a good example of this. His legacy is built on the universal respect for his unselfish and principled leadership.

Adriaan quoted from the new book ‘Fighting for Justice’ by Jay Naidoo: ‘The true test of leadership is to make tough decisions’. There were historic moments when Nelson Mandela made decisions that were directly contrary to his colleagues and could have damaged his reputation. His support of the Springbok symbol in rugby was a prime example. His passion to unite the nation was more important to him than humiliation of those who caused his incarceration all those many years ago. This was not always a popular approach for his supporters at the time. The world now reveres him as one of the great leaders of all time.

Doing important things

We find many examples of great leaders around us who achieve a reputation as being important simply because they do not strive for importance but rather to do important and unselfish things in trying to lift those around them.

Trying to be important may be human nature but it is such a waste of precious time and talent! As we learn to grow up we also tend to resist trying to be important.

Making mature leadership decisions in serving others is often not popular.

Rich spoke of being vulnerable in order to be a good leader. Being vulnerable is not the same as trying to be important. He suggested that leaders also avoid looking for trends that support their thinking, but rather for trends that don’t. This takes courage and is not an example of trying to be important but rather doing things that are important.

What makes us respect people is the manner in which they are principle and values driven. Thabo mentioned that there are principles a leader should not compromise. To do this is the great test of good leadership.

Good leaders say the same thing

Leader after leader on the Leadership Platform Show are consistent in their conviction that seeking to be important is a dead end street, while serving others is the hall mark of great leadership. They may express this principle in different ways, but they are really saying the same thing: Be passionate about doing the right thing and a good reputation will follow you. We make a difference in life by serving others, not by trying to be important.


Louis has been fanatically endeavoring to uncover universal leadership principles and models for longer than most of us have been alive. He is an author, leadership expert, father, grandfather, and the Co-Founder of Leadership Platform.

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