The Many Meanings of a Super Achiever
Perhaps that question sounds like it is founded on circular logic, but I assure you it is not.
Being a Super Achiever may, in fact often does, lead to super achievements. It is this very reason that the Super Achiever can be one of the most incessant and destructive behavior patterns. After all, who can argue with success? Not only is Super Achiever behavior difficult for the individual to abandon, it can be contagious to those around her or him and can infect an entire organization! Super Achiever is more often used as a term of praise than it is as a negative commentary on someone. Search Super Achiever on Google and you will find far more positive references and links on how to “become” a Super Achiever than you will find warnings or cautions about the pitfalls. It can be more than a little confusing.
Achievement is good, right? Isn’t that what the world is all about? Shouldn’t we all strive to be Super Achievers? Not exactly.
You see the Super Achiever MUST succeed, and in fact success is usually not enough, he or she must be FIRST and must be the BEST, at all costs. Beyond that, the Super Achiever is not satisfied unless achievement is recognized by others. Super Achiever behavior has many roots rising up the tree of low self-esteem and a continuous need to prove one’s worth. Such single minded drive may lead to success in an arena of individual achievement such as many sports (usually at tremendous personal and social cost), but fares far worse in the business world.
For the Super Achiever, it is all about “me”. Predictably, this leads to actions that minimize the contributions of others:
- Hoarding of information that might allow others to succeed
- Exclusionary behaviors that fail to take advantage of all the available talents
- General sub-optimization of the business.
When you have a Super Achiever on staff, everyone around them (except other Super Achievers) will shrink into the background. If the Super Achiever is in a position of power or leadership, it is even worse. Subordinates either check-out because they cannot live up to the standard, cower in fear of failure, become yes-men (or yes-women), or emulate the behavior in an attempt to be noticed.
Real super achievements come from teams led by Creative Collaborators. The Creative Collaborator has shed the need for constant external validation and recognition that can use the talents of others to reach achievements far more ‘super’ than could be hoped for alone.
Written by Frank Walsh
Frank Walsh is a Professional Engineer with over 20 years of experience including design and leadership in heavy industry. Frank specializes in helping companies build a culture of creativity. He is a co-facilitator in CEO‘s flagship program, “Total Leadership Connections” (TLC).