Winners, losers and survivors exist all around us. The world is full of people who become famous through excellent results alongside those who gain notoriety because of poor performance.
Interestingly, mediocrity is much more common than success or failure in most areas of human endeavour.
The Mundane Middle
Most people get by, but seldom excel. This is despite the fact that almost everyone is good at something. The majority of people on the planet never have the opportunity to soar because they never have the opportunity to utilize the natural talents they are born with.
Many of us never even experience the joy of discovering the true genius that lies dormant, deep within us all.
While many of us labour unrewardingly outside of our true calling, others are able to advance in areas where they have little or no natural talent at all. The most ineffective, or even dangerous people on earth, are those who have a strong belief that they excel at something where they have no particular talent and yet have managed to advance.
We often see these people in senior positions.
Sometimes they are arrogant, egotistical bullies who strut around the office or the factory floor barking out orders and bragging about their adventures. Some are quiet and reserved, but bristle with superiority at or just below the surface. No matter how they present themselves, they usually make poor business decisions and specialize in poor hiring choices.
These are the people who talk down to others and are critical just for the sake of being right.
Climbing the Misplaced Ladder
Often because a business is unique, has a strong customer following, or has a history of success, these people manage to advance and move up the ladder despite themselves and despite the harm they do to those they are able to impact along the way.
Some are highly educated, while others are only experts in bravado.
They know how to manipulate the decision makers above them and they fly under the radar on their way to the top. Eventually, they will reach the level of their own incompetence…the place where they can no longer fool even the most detached executives…but at that point, the damage will have already been done and they will probably be rewarded for their poor performance with a gold watch and a healthy retirement package.
We have all known people like this!
Be Wise, Exercise
As I ruminate on this phenomenon, it occurs to me that the one talent these people have is the talent for exercising their own ego. While most of us hide our ego and exercise our humility as our parents taught us, the egomaniacs of the world take on almost anything that comes their way with a resolute belief that they will succeed.
Their success is based on an unyielding belief in themselves.
They have such a well-defined sense of self direction that they are incapable of acknowledging any suggestion that they might be on an incorrect path. They believe they are winners and they dismiss any thoughts of failure. A German propaganda minister in Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Government, Joseph Goebbels said this:
“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”
Unfortunately, I have observed in business that many people have adopted the philosophy of Goebbels, perhaps without even knowing it. They lie to the people around them and they lie to themselves.
For them, lying is not even wrong or immoral…it is instead, a matter of business survival.
They tell themselves they are great and then make sure everyone in their sphere of influence knows it. Through deception, they manage to succeed. Ultimately the deception becomes truth as the intimidation of their bravado and growing success moves them closer to the top of the hierarchy.
Ultimately, they leave behind a legacy of negativity despite any financial success their organizations might attain.
A Better Way
Despite the success that ego can bring, the true leaders in society are those who are honest, ethical, humble people with genuine talent.
My preference is to follow leaders who lead with talent, empathy, skill, and humility.
- I will follow someone who has something valuable to say and not someone who simply wants to say something.
- I will follow a leader who puts the needs of his team and his company first and second, with his own coming in a distant third.
- I will follow a leader whose ego is limited to ambition for, and belief in her team.
- I will follow a leader who is primarily proud of her team and that she is fortunate enough to lead them.
- I will follow a leader who always tells the truth.
- I will follow a true leader!
Leading is difficult but when done right, it creates a wonderful legacy.
The Best Way
Here is a short list of things all great leaders take with them to the top:
• Utilization of natural talents
• Ego directed only at team results
• Self-awareness and the courage to change
With just those few elements a leader can put himself or herself on a level above the pack. Those leaders can create high-performing teams and leave a legacy of greatness that will live on long after they have departed.
Ego will invariably be an element of success, but it should not be the only factor!
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