Of all the pseudo-inspirational quotes out there, there are few I dislike more than the one that says something like “I was raised to treat the janitor with the same respect as the CEO.”

Under what conditions would you need to make this proclamation? What is the objective here? It’s certainly not to make a statement about equity or respect. The point-of-view is first person singular. The subject is “I.” The narrator is just explaining what a swell person he is. The objective is to draw attention to the person making the statement. “Look at me! Look how good I am, and I am part of a whole lineage who are good.” The implication being that others are not as good as he is.

What it also communicates (at least to me) is that the narrator does in fact believe there is a difference between a janitor and a CEO, and one can safely assume that the difference the narrator sees is that the Janitor is less than the CEO. Nonetheless, he’s going to treat them the same despite this difference. But all that is secondary. The primary message you should take away here is that the narrator is a real mensch. Or at least he sure thinks he is.

It’s a great quote for exemplifying what is so often wrong with much of leadership development. It teaches would-be leaders to stroke their own egos rather than showing them how to make a positive impact. Developing yourself as a leader is not about you. It’s about making yourself better equipped to do good for the world around you.

Talk to me.

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