Leading beyond self interest
June 11, 2008
Do you ever wonder if what you are doing is wrong? Does it ever cross your mind that the direction in which you are taking the organization might be off track? The folk at Enron surely got it wrong. I listen—when I can stomach it—to night-time TV evangelists, and as much as I want the Gospel to be heard by any means, I can come to no other conclusion than some seem to be charlatans. Do they know their religious snake-oils are fake remedies? That's my assessment.
But how about others's assessment of me?
Is what I'm doing an extrapolation of ego and self interest?
As much as I believe that what I do comes from realistic and fair diagnoses of our world, how do I know I'm not simply functioning under an ego driven to be always right?
I know Heifetz' parallel is extreme: Hitler is hyperbole.
The point is this: How can I prevent myself from leading in ways that are not attuned to my self-interest, and instead are for the success of the group and its aims?
Ego is essential. If I as leader lack confidence and am not convinced I can lead, I end up as a doormat, not a leader. The danger is that if my diagnosis is wrong, and I'm pig-headed not to listen to others, and if ego drives me on, wrong or "fake" remedies will lead to disaster.
I see such disasters—good ideas and good organizations dead or languishing on the edge of meltdown. Some are because leaders, who listening only to themselves, assured their analysis was right, pushed on, contrary to others' advice.
The tragedy is lost opportunity. While leaders must operate with confidence, what is essential to serving as leader is a strategy to seek out advice, to get the facts, to consider perspectives, to test the ideas, and to begin to in measured ways testing the idea until the leader and surrounding community are convinced this is the way to go.
God of Three in community, may I have wisdom to be open to sources you make available to help me know what is best, helpful and true. Amen.
By providing illusions of grandeur, internal scapegoats, and external enemies, Hitler misdiagnosed Germany's ills and brought his nation to disaster. He exercised leadership no more than a charlatan practices medicine when providing fake remedies.