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Mudita: Joy in the success of others

By David Poole,

Today's editorial is a guest post from David Poole.

Most people attend conferences to cram into their heads as much new knowledge as will fit. I do too, but ever since attending one of the SQLBits conferences, I learned that they can also offer wonderful opportunities for personal and professional growth. During an evening session on "Leadership", chaired by Kevin Kline and Buck Woody, Buck offered the following words of wisdom:

"Human beings do not scale well. No matter what your skills and abilities, you as an individual can only do so much. Therefore the only way for you to grow beyond your limitations is for you to enable and empower other people".

To this, he added,

"The saddest day of your life is when you realize that the people coming up the ranks are better coders than you. The happiest day of your life is when you realize that it doesn't matter".

To these profound truths, I should like to add the following: if you can take genuine pleasure in other people's successes, then you will start to experience the true rewards of being in a leadership position. The word "Mudita" encapsulates this sentiment perfectly.

It is a sad fact that many achievements go unremarked and so, in many cases, people do not even realize the significance of the contribution they have made. Even worse, someone else, often the person in a leadership position, ends up taking credit for another's achievements. Such "false success" not only denies a team member due credit, but also denies the leader the pleasure of that success. It is very easy to fix this; a simple, sincere, and occasionally public, word of thanks is often all that is needed.

A note of caution: once you start to enjoy the successes of other people, there is a natural urge to "game the system" and to help them succeed. There is a fine line between the legitimate removal of obstacles to success and illegitimately performing a task yourself. The latter undermines your team and, again, denies to all the true pleasure of that success.

If you get this right, however, then your successes will make you valued by those above you and, in enabling and celebrating their success, by those you lead.

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