There’s something funny about power in the workplace. Our boss’s boss, all the way up to the CEO of a company; they all carry some sort of perceived power. You’ll always get a little flutter when they walk by, or sit up straighter when they walk around your corner of the office.
This is because, naturally, you want to look good in front of the CEO. She’s a powerful person who has a lot of say and can conceivably fire you in an instant. People respect her, people are afraid of her, and she has worked long and hard to get to where she is.
But what is fascinating to me, is that the second that CEO walks out of the office after work, she’s just another person on her commute home. Walking through crowded sidewalks, sitting on the train, going about her normal business.
You may pass some extremely powerful people in your daily life, but you’d never know it.
Because CEO’s and people in powerful positions in companies (aside from massive ones in which a CEO status brings some sort of fame or familiarity like good ol’ Mark Z.) are just people. The second they step out of the office building all power is lost. They’re in charge of hundreds of people from 9-5, and once they set foot in the outdoors, they have all of the same problems as we do, take the same train home, go to the gym, and all feel tired after a long day like we do.
This is an important thing to remember for both people new to the workforce, and for the CEOs out there.
For the newly minted college graduates: remember that your bosses, the VPs, and the CEOs are all just people. Not terrible overlords who sniff and scoff at everything their employees do, just looking for reasons to fire everyone. Strike up a conversation about life, about things that you enjoy, because they too (while it may not seem like it to you or the CEO) have lives and care about things outside of work.
For the CEOs: remember that the power you carry in the office ends precisely there. And when you’re in the office, be as approachable as you would to your employees as you would to the other parents at your kid’s soccer game. And when you’re not in the office, realize that to everyone else on the subway, you’re just one more person heading home after a long day.
It’s easy for us to get into our own heads and worry about what to say, and it’s also easy for us to assume other people know about our lives who actually have no idea about who we are or what we do. It’s great to feel important, but it’s more important to feel connected to yourself and those around you.
No matter who you are or what you do, embodying a sense of community and humility is what will bring people together to act towards a common goal, and to inspire greatness in yourself and those around you.
Let’s work towards greater unity, in the workplace and in the world, because at the end of the day we’re all taking the same train home.