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The Good and Bad of Being a "Pleaser"!


In yoga, one thing is constant… with every exhale you can go deeper than you ever thought was possible. The same thing applies to leadership. It is a skill, a mindset that is honed and deepened with practice and intention. Breathe.

“Pleasers”, if you aren’t one you surely know one. The fabulous people who seem to thrive when giving of themselves and helping others succeed. They are thoughtful, empathetic and many times have a very high EQ. All admirable characteristics but if gone unchecked, this trait can create negativity, resentment, and the feeling of being taken advantage of. This Forbes article has outlined this concept beautifully: How To Be A More Assertive Communicator When You're A Natural People-Pleaser

As with many of the saboteurs described in Positive Intelligence, the pleaser is one which I see in so many. Even with the best intentions, it can rob you of your voice, confidence, and inherent self-worth.

Certainly, there are two angles, if you are a pleaser or if you work with one. For the sake of conversation let's assume you are a pleaser. Does the internal dialogue sound like this... “I am a good person so I need to put others' needs first”, “If I don’t do it then nobody will.” “I have the expertise so I will ‘take one for the team.’” The list goes on.

All of these statements, while maybe correct, overtime will wear you down. It does not empower others to lean into their strengths and become leaders themselves and it facilitates mediocre engagement.

Helping out and giving of yourself is a noble and admirable trait but as soon as the word “should” comes into play, it is time to stop and think about your motive.

Are you doing these things because it is a short-term win and allows you to avoid the bigger conversations? Are you honoring your own self-worth? Are you having difficulty finding the words to say “no”?

Creating boundaries is also a common problem. Feeling you have to do everything for everyone leaves little space for you. Developing healthy boundaries is essential for everyone. Having the words to express the reasoning shows strong leadership and integrity. The Harvard Business Review wrote a great article that gives some nice examples as to how to do this well.

My Challenge To You:

  • Before jumping in agreeing to help, ask yourself “WHY” am I agreeing to this, and what do I hope for in return. Is this a pure offer, or do I hope for something in return (this may be very subtle so be careful)? Holding yourself accountable to have no other agenda is only for you to determine.

  • Practice saying no. With kindness and explanation, honor your self-worth, sit with the moment of discomfort and believe that others have the capacity to rise without you.

  • As a leader you are setting precedent, if everyone followed your lead in this behavior, where would your team be?

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