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Would you rather lead as a big fish in a little pond or a little fish in a big pond?


SmartPulse — our weekly nonscientific reader poll in SmartBrief on Leadership — tracks feedback from more than 220,000 business leaders. We run the poll question each week in our newsletter.

Would you rather lead as a big fish in a little pond or a little fish in a big pond?

  • I like leading as the big fish in a little pond: 48.7%
  • I like leading as a little fish in a big pond: 51.3%

Different ways to swim. It seems folks are very evenly split on preferring to be a big fish in a small pond or a small fish in a big one. Each has their benefits and drawbacks. For you big fish, the leadership challenge is making the pond bigger for the benefit of everyone. If you have a position of importance or power, think about how you can expand growth opportunities for everyone around you. For you little fish, consider focusing on your own development and growth. Explore more of that big pond and build your skills and perspectives as you do so. In both situations, it’s not really about your environment or your position in it — it’s about what you do with the opportunities presented to you.

Mike Figliuolo is managing director of thoughtLEADERS. Before launching his own company, he worked at McKinsey & Co., Capital One and Scotts Miracle-Gro. He is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He’s the author of three leadership books: “One Piece of Paper,” “Lead Inside the Box” and “The Elegant Pitch.”