Last week, after coming off the glow of the incredible and extraordinary gathering, I had to get back into the realities of business. For the first half of the week, it was a clear demonstration of people flexing their egos. Thank God I was coming off such a high vibration Sunday, because I was able to pause —not react, and to think through this ego trip.
My reflection stopped me from saying something stupid, but also surrounded me with a dark cloud of weakness. I was then clearly brought to the thought, could these “egos” I’m dealing with just be a critical sign of weakness? Are these two people, who are flexing their egos and opinions about others, coming from a place of weakness? And, yes, it was very apparent that this was the case.
I looked up the definition of ego. The dictionary defines it as “the part of the psychic apparatus that experiences and reacts to the outside world, and thus mediates between the primitive drives of the id and the demands of the social and physical environment.” This got me thinking, could the primitive drive be survival here? Were these egos coming out as a survival tool? Was this the only way these two individuals could deal with the demands of the social and physical environment —to act like they are better than it?
Suddenly, that dark cloud of weakness became one of sadness, and ultimately compassion. I wondered, could these two grown men, interacting in this company, not have the tools to really deal with adversity? Could their only tool be to use their ego? Yup, when I reflected on it, it was a sad situation.
But the week got better. Two subsequent meetings, with two young CEOs, doing great things with their businesses and having incredible results (who, in my opinion, have all the rights in the world to exhibit their ego) went well. How refreshing it was to have them both exhibit humility. It was as if they where specifically sent to me to show how humble successful CEOs can be.
And then it struck me, how counterintuitive the situation was. On the surface, ego is a symptom of weakness, while humility is a sign of success and strength. Then when you pause and think again, it is not counterintuitive at all, it is absolutely the way it should be. No strong leader can lead with ego, they have to lead with humble service. I bet you are already naming some in your head… from Gandhi to Mother Theresa. And there are 1000s more like the two CEOs I ended my week with.
So today, let’s all start leading with humility, and recognize the ego as a sign of weakness. Whenever we slip into an egotistic, personal moment, let’s reflect that this is exhibiting a particular weakness in us. When we truly feel humble and go out of our way to serve others —that is real strength.
In today’s business world, unfortunately, there is much more ego than there is humility. But a conscious approach to both (in other words, calling out the underlying weaknesses when ego is exhibited, and then in contrast, calling out the strengths when you see genuine humility) can support the growth of business as a service to its employees and customers. And that is as it should be.
Onward and upward—