The Company You Keep
Listen up boys and girls, because back when you really were a boy or girl, your parents told you who to avoid and who to hang out with. You didn’t listen then, and you don’t now.
Whether you know it or not, your peers; those folks who are similar to you in ability, qualification and background are still having an impact on your life.
A few days ago, while shopping for much needed supplies, I ran into a cashier whom I’d known from another store. We hugged and asked about each other’s families. (I live in the South, we care like that.)
She asked what I’d be doing the next day and I told her that it depended. “What’s going on?” I asked.
She told me that her church was having a ground breaking ceremony on their new building. I smiled politely and told her congrats, but, I’d planned on reading a book. She looked at me like I was crazy. “Is it the Bible?” She countered, rather indignantly. I smiled, begged her pardon and shuffled away.
Had I stayed a bit longer, I knew that I would have felt pressured to drop what I wanted to do, to do what she wanted me to.
It turns out that the book, The Power of Peers, by Leon Shapiro and Leo Bottary, was not only what I wanted to do, it was also what I needed to do.
In this brilliant book, the authors outline how the company you keep drives your ability to lead, to grow and to succeed.
Shapiro and Bottary make a case for peer groups among CEOs and other lonely leaders. In doing so, they also create a model for all of us to recognize the power of deliberately choosing the company we keep.
The book describes how to select the right peers, create a safe environment, utilize a smart guide and foster valuable interaction and accountability to learn from others while sharing what you know.
I should tell you that Leo Bottary was one of my peers during my undergraduate career. Energetic and always willing to serve, Leo is still living and creating a model for successful servant leaders to connect to like-minded people to learn, lead and change their world.
I’ve said it before, but Bottary and Shapiro have presented the business case for the fact that self-esteem is for the self, but it comes from the people you have around you.
What they have clearly conceptualized and defined is the fact that the company you keep determines the kind of companies we all get.
Whether you are a CEO at a Fortune 500, a pastor, husband or wife, your company determines your business.
Peer pressure did not begin and end in your adolescence, it continues even now.
If you want to lead and succeed; if you want to create something new; if you want to live a life of purpose and authenticity, you must deliberately determine the company you keep. Otherwise, someone else will plan it for you.
Be you, be well, be in good company.
Bertice Berry, PhD.
Watch the discussion on Periscope