A friend of mine shared with me that during a performance evaluation he provided feedback to his employee that while this person had strong leadership skills he was lacking in humility. He went on to highlight various incidents where this individual’s lack of humility came in the way of his leadership ability and rather than help his team it ended up hurting them.
It seems that so much what inspires us today about leadership is focused on the charisma side and not enough of it is focused on the sacrifice side. That’s not to say that there are only two sides of leadership but that if we were to look at two diametrically opposed views, one focused on ego and the other on selflessness, I suspect that most of the literature today on leadership (especially in the business arena) is focused on ego rather than selflessness.
We are easily awed by that larger than life leader who is able to achieve amazing feats of strength and display an endless supply of power. Little impresses us though when it comes to that leader who puts their team ahead of themselves. I want to be clear though that this is not the fault of writers or publishers. It is not the fault of TV producers or movie makers. It is not even the fault of athletes or politicians. In my opinion this is a basic human fault. This is something that is built into our DNA as human beings. Something that we have to struggle against and set aside.
Those who are unable to overcome their ego will face nothing but grief in leading and motivating teams. In fact, those who aspire to emulate the self absorbed style of leadership, the larger than life persona that is effectively an empty shell is doomed to failure. Again in my opinion a large extent of this is asking ourselves who inspires us? Who do we want to learn from? How can we follow in their footsteps?
The answers to these questions provide significant insight into the ambitions of a person and will shed considerable light on their preferred leadership style. Unfortunately setting one’s ego aside is not an easy process nor a one time activity. It is a daily struggle that all of us face.
To some extent I believe it starts every day with a simple question that we have to ask ourselves. “Will this action/decision benefit anyone other than myself?” If the answer is no, perhaps we need to look deeper.