Understanding Greatness

Great authors have a knack of explaining a concept in such a beautiful manner that you read his exposition again and again. Steven Covey explains in his book “The Leader in Me [How Schools and Parents Around the World Are Inspiring Greatness, One Child at a Time]’…. I quote…

……As I struggle to distil the essence of what the new business environment is telling me, what educators are telling me, what parents are telling me, and what my own heart is telling me, the concept that keeps surfacing in my mind is primary greatness. I recognize that “greatness” is a term that is intimidating to many people. To some it is even a negative or arrogant term. I think this is because many people equate it only with what I call secondary greatness. Secondary greatness has to do with positions or titles, awards, wealth, fame rankings or rare accomplishments. Almost by any definition, secondary greatness can only be attained by a select few, an extremely small percentage of a population. Secondary greatness is largely determined by comparing one person against another.

Primary greatness, on the other hand, is open to everyone. Every single person can have it; there are no bell-curve limits. Primary greatness has to do with a person’s integrity, work ethic, treatment of others, motives, and level of initiative. It has also to do with a person’s character, contributions, talents, creativity and discipline. It represents who people are – every day – as opposed to what they own or temporary achievements. Primary greatness is measured not by comparisons with other people, but by adherence to timeless, universal principles. It is humble.

Sometimes, primary greatness is a precursor or companion to secondary greatness. In other words, a person having primary greatness ends up also having secondary greatness. Other times, secondary greatness comes alone. We all know of people, for example, who have secondary greatness but lack semblance of primary greatness. At the same time, many people with primary greatness never achieve secondary greatness, and even prefer to avoid the limelight of secondary greatness.

The reason primary greatness keeps coming to my mind is that I sincerely believe it is what business leaders, parents, and educators are begging for in their employees, in their children and in their students.