Tall Poppy


If you live outside of New Zealand or Australia you’ve likely never heard of this expression.


To ‘tall poppy’ someone basically means to cut them down when they are achieving or successful.


Here we refer to this as Tall Poppy Syndrome – the need to cut down the poppy when it grows too tall. Or cut down the person when they’ve become too successful for your liking.


People who ‘tall poppy’ other people do it because they are insecure or threatened so they attempt to ruin someone else’s success.


Perhaps you’re reading this right now and you’re thinking of a time when this has happened to you. Or maybe you are even thinking, ‘oh no’ I’ve done this to someone else.


I think to some degree we’ve all cut someone else down before or judged them negatively (even if just in our own heads).  We’ve probably all been jealous of someone else’s success at some stage in our lives and judged them negatively or made an excuse as the why they achieved what they have. I suppose that’s human nature and nobody is perfect. But to act on that feeling of jealousy or resentment and literally try to ‘cut someone down when they are growing tall’ is a hugely limiting behavior in the world and is not good leadership. It doesn’t serve anyone.


It’s especially disappointing when people you look up to or care about do it to you. People you see as role models who you thought were bigger than that. People who you assumed were so confident in their own successes that they wouldn’t need to rip yours a part.


Unfortunately this does happen far too often.


It’s happened to me (again recently), and sure it hurts, but I’ve decided the best defense is to remove the emotion and look at it objectively rather than like a victim. What can I learn from this is the question I’ve asked myself.


So here’s what I’ve come up with….


When being tall poppied, here’s some positive outcomes you can create:


  1. Remember how bad it feels and promise yourself to never do it to someone else. If each of us would make that promise, the world would eventually be eradicated (well nearly) of this limiting behavior. We would be far more likely to celebrate other’s successes and therefore allow them to grow.
  2. Know and trust that even though one person found your success to be negative, a hundred others were probably inspired by it, so chin up and keep going!
  3. Recognize that perhaps people who tall poppy have something else going on in their lives and could use your help. Be kind in the face of cruelty. As hard as it may be, you will be a better and happier person for it.
  4. Embrace the criticism, see if there is any value in it that you can learn from it, and use it as fuel to dream even bigger.
  5. Keep looking forward. Relish in you’re ability to be resilient! Resilience is a strength that allows you to persevere.


So, the next time someone tries to cut you down, try to think objectively rather than emotionally. Don’t let them control your next move or stand the way of your dreams. Continue to invest in your dreams regardless of the dogma around you. It takes courage to stand out and stand up for what you believe in. But that’s what great leaders do, and they never let anyone cut them down.

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