What Have I Helped Others to Achieve?

Aga Khan iV
What Have I Helped Others to Achieve?
Aga Khan IV: “The question is not only ‘What have I achieved?’, the question is: ‘What have I helped others to achieve?’”
Aga Khan IV: “The question is not only ‘What have I achieved?’, the question is: ‘What have I helped others to achieve?’”
Image credit: DFID - UK Department for International Development via Wikimedia Commons

Thanks to Al Nameera Meghjani for suggesting this inspirational quotation from Aga Khan IV in her Scholar Spotlight feature!

Aga Khan IV (1936-) is the current Imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims and the founder and chairman of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN).

The Aga Khan succeeded his grandfather as Imam in 1957 at the age of 20. Upon assuming the position, he continued his grandfather's mission to improve the quality of life for Ismaili peoples, assist refugees, and advocate for positive relations between people of different ethnicities. 

In 1967 he founded the Aga Khan Development Network, a network of private, non-denominational development agencies which address health, education, culture, rural development, institution-building and the promotion of economic development in the poorest parts of the world. Today the organisation coordinates over 200 agencies and employs 96,000 people in over 30 countries around the world, notably at health and education facilities.    


A previous boss and subsequent lifelong mentor had a personal performance check: could he demonstrate that work he had personally done had paid for himself (ie his salary and on-costs) within Q1 of any given year? It ensured that his contributions to the success of the organisation, his achievements, remained tangible however senior he became (which when I reported to him was extremely - he was Group CEO). He was also completely brilliant at ensuring that others were successful, as the impressive careers of so many of his direct reports attest. Reading this great Aga Khan IV quotation reminds me that every leader should ask both questions of themselves, honestly and unflinchingly: what have I achieved and what have I demonstrably helped others to achieve on a regular basis.   

Go to the profile of Kayla Kim
8 months ago

I love the idea of a personal performance check, thanks so much for sharing!

It resonated with me because this wasn't something he reported to the Board, or published in any way, it was his own simple, direct way of measuring that he was delivering value. Interestingly, I am just listening to Seth Godin's The Practice thanks to an excellent recommendation from @Nikol Chen (she/her) and he talks about being one's own boss, if you are unemployed or not, and how one holds oneself to account.