Saturday, May 26, 2018

Self-Leadership #10 Balance Ego and Humility

For a leader, part of humility is the recognition that you get meaningful results only through the effort of others. It is one way of embodying truth and reinforcing character. An effective leader understands that even the most powerful person is only a bit player on the larger stage of life. Chrysostom once said, "Humility is the mother, root, nurse, foundation, and center of all other virtues." A leader needs to be humble and in humility is how he should lead.

Though humility is essential for a leader, this is not enough. "Humility is to make a right estimate of oneself," explained Charles H. Spurgeon. But "it is no humility for a man to think less of himself than he ought." A leader needs a little dose of ego. He shouldn't think less of himself. The progress of the human race has been built upon the egos of great coaches, soldiers, entrepreneurs, teachers, scientists, and educators. All good leaders have healthy egos (though few might not want to admit it). Ego is a self-pusher that pushes you to accept nothing less than your personal best because your name and reputation are on the line. The more we believe in ourselves, the higher our self-esteem as leaders, and the more tension and anxiety we can endure on the road to achieving our goals. Ego, therefore, is closely tied to performance.

Steve Jobs, considered as a great visionary leader, had ego and it was a vital contributor to his worldwide success. In fact, it's hard to think or imagine likewise when you read the way he leads in his biographies (try reading one by Walter Isaacson). Every time he embarked on new projects with his Apple team, you saw it. The design departments experienced it often. So much so that Young Steve Jobs was knowns as an ‘egomaniac' leader. The same ego that helps him achieved greatness also caused him almost permanent downfall (he was fired from Apple but years later returned as a more matured-thinking man). Ryan Holiday, the author of Ego is the Enemy, says that "Ego almost destroyed Steve Jobs' career." Nothing will sink a leader faster than an over-ego attitude.

To emphasize the paradox of leadership between ego and humility, Saeed Al Muntafiq illustrates that "If ego is the engine and horsepower in the car, then humility is the traction control that keeps it on the road." This fine analogy illustrating clearly the balance between the two qualities to be found in any great leader. The balanced proportion of (healthy) ego and humility defines the capability of each individual to take on leadership roles.

How to balance ego and humility? Here are several things to think about:

Ego Is Necessary: Ego is a determination to never do less than your best. As such, it is critical to a healthy performance.

Beware of Over-Ego Attitude: Never lost sight of the dark side of ego – the ego that is self-serving and therefore interferes with leadership that supposed to be serving others.

Give Credit Where It's Due: Humility is about giving credit where credit is due. If you did it, take the credit. If you had help, recognize those who helped you. If it’s a work of a team – praise them!


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