Some years ago I was at a health care conference in New Orleans. During one of the free periods where we could mingle with each other and look at what the vendors had to offer, I saw the organization's outgoing president standing by herself for a moment and went over to talk to her.

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I told her that out of the almost 14 years at the time, that I'd been going to things like this, along with board meetings (I'd been a local chapter president most of those years) that she and one other president were the only people who ever made me feel like I was a regular person and deserved to be treated well. Not that anyone ever treated me badly per se, but no one ever really talked to me at all, which always gave me the impression that they thought they were better than me, or that I wasn't really worth their time.

She said that she's always felt that no matter who anyone was that everyone was needed to get things done, and that some people who may not have titles or might have special skills that are needed are sometimes more important than those people with titles or specific leadership duties. In her mind it was proven when one looked at all the positive changes that have happened while she was president. She didn't take any credit for any of those things, saying it was others who listened to what the membership was saying and brought things to her attention, and then she worked hard to make sure that those issues were addressed, whether they were implemented or not.

In my mind she was an elite person because she didn't see herself as elite, but still got things accomplished that only a person thought of by others as elite could have pulled off. At the same time I had to ask the question in general as to whether someone thinking they're elite is always a bad thing or not.

As with my views on servant leadership as expressed in an interview I did with Richard Rierson, it's possible that the word "elite", when applied to humans, offers a negative connotation, thus if someone starts believing they're elite and mentions it to someone else they might not be looked upon positively.

In this instance I'm going to go a different route. I tend to feel that people need to have a belief in themselves and their abilities in order to achieve great things in life. Therefore, I want people to think of themselves in as strong a light as possible, and if that involves the word elite, then so be it.

However, if someone takes that feeling and starts applying it to themselves in their interactions with others, or lack thereof, then there's going to be problems. As the person I was talking to above stated, if you don't have the belief that others have value and possibly greater value in some of the things they do that you yourself can't do, then you're never going to be as effective as you could be. If others feel that you think you're superior to them, they won't give you everything they can, and once again you won't be as effective as you could have been.

Belief in your elite status depends on how you manifest it when you're engaging others. Whether you think you're elite or not, always remember that you're not all that; it'll help keep you humble while still thinking you're up to any challenges that may come your way. There's nothing wrong with seeing yourself as an authority in as many aspects as you wish. It's how you present yourself to others, direct or indirectly, that will show whether you're an effective person or leader in the long term.

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