Leadership Redefined

We were nearing the end of our four-month coaching assignment when I asked him what he had learned. His response: “The power of giving away my strength.

Wow! What a terrific way to think about leadership; successful and professionally fulfilled senior executives always believe in teaching. Teaching can be formal, like presenting at training events, or leading teams in creative or strategic dialogues. Or, it can be informal, like holding spontaneous, yet deep conversations about initiatives. Excellent teachers are excellent listeners; their higher perspectives displace their ego. Listening requires subordinating the ego and suspending judgment. Only those with advanced maturity have this capability.

One of our coaching objectives is for people to become profoundly aware of their personality strengths and build a strategic vision to employ their personality in the most creative and beneficial way. As part of this process, we also create a personal branding statement in seven words or less. This particular leader’s branding statement is: “I inspire people to use facts imaginatively.” Before coaching, he often used facts to win arguments and resolve conflict in his favor. Now, it’s not about winning or feeding his ego. It’s about helping others grow by encouraging them to think of bigger, more strategic ideas. As a result, people are expanding the boundaries of what they can accomplish under his guidance. In addition, senior management has begun to notice the profound difference in his leadership style.

Put this into practice this week. First, take a moment to ask yourself, “What am I really good at?” Now, think about how you can give this strength to another person. For example, if you are super-conscientious and organized, can you offer to coach an imaginative, but disorganized colleague? If you are great at networking, can you help out a colleague who is incredibly talented, but painfully introverted? What’s critical is a sincere desire to give away your natural gift, to help another person in their journey. Giving away your strength is the most evolved type of offering. When you expect nothing in return, it means you have overcome fear and the ego’s need for recognition.

Giving away your strength by helping others is the purest form of leadership. Even if you don’t hold a leadership role, giving away your strength can reap big rewards. When you selflessly teach or make someone else better, they know it. The powerful law of reciprocity ensures that they will repay you in some form or fashion. Now that’s a win-win!

Learn more about leveraging your strengths through our book, Becoming A Strategic Leader, available on Amazon. If you’re interested in learning more about our business coaching, please visit TopLineTalent.com to watch our 10-Minute Test Drive and learn how we can elevate your sales team through affordable, self-paced training.

Dr. George Watts

Chairman Top Line Talent

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Thinking Accurately: Beware of the Ego

Every day, business professionals make decisions and take action based on inaccurate thinking. Inaccurate thinking isn’t always preventable. Sometimes data or processes are flawed, information is inexact, or unexpected variables arise. That said, there is one preventable factor that often drives inaccurate thinking – the influence of the ego.

How does the ego result in inaccurate thinking? The ego demands status, recognition, prestige and power. When these demands are threatened, fear and anxiety emerge. These dynamics cause unconscious bias in your perspective. The more the ego controls your thinking, the more susceptible you are to believing your own “alternative facts.” Your unconscious can exert too much control when you’re unaware of the ego driven energy that motivates and influences you.

Examining past mistakes helps you understand more about who you are and what influences your behavior. Looking back, is there a pattern to your inaccurate thinking? Can you pinpoint where and when you dismissed the obvious or lied to yourself? Hindsight is “20/20” but what if you could look at the essence of these situations objectively? You can, but only if you eliminate the bias of the ego. This trick of the psyche is often at the core of life’s missteps.

In our executive coaching, we often see examples of how, despite initial success, inaccurate thinking can lead to career stagnation.

Picture a business leader who insists on being the smartest person in the room. Their interpersonal style is to exert control and to demonstrate to everyone how much they know. With smug assurance they state their opinion and look around expectedly for heads to nod. Shrewd, hardworking and ambitious, they’ve progressed past their peers and are promoted to a senior level position. But (unfortunately for them) virtually everybody at that senior level is smart, hardworking, and emotionally intelligent enough. What then?

At a certain level, the pendulum now swings towards psychological maturity. This is the leader who harmonizes personalities, holds deep conversations, listens well, connects the dots and authentically sells the vision. What happens to the dominating executive who unconsciously asserts their ego? Odds are they eventually lose the support, trust, and emotional buy-in from people. At some point they’ll be neutralized or passed over for someone with greater emotional maturity and leadership skills.

What’s really going on is the ego believed that being the “smartest person in the room” was enough and that people would forever be deferential and loyal. This inaccurate thinking was ego driven and completely preventable. Unless they’re coached and undertake the challenging journey of self-examination, they’ll likely never fully understand why their career was sidetracked. They’ll more likely blame someone or something other than their own behavior.

Another example of inaccurate thinking that can derail your career is putting faith in the wrong person. Hitching your wagon to somebody you believe is a winner is a great strategy. But a bad move here can have profound consequences. Ignoring clues of narcissism or dominance may come back to haunt you when your boss is passed over for someone with more emotional maturity. What about the highly competent and cerebral leader who eats lunch at his desk every day? Thinking accurately, you would realize that being on this person’s team has risk because they haven’t developed a robust internal network that will protect them and you in a downsizing event.

If you’ve hitched your wagon to the wrong star, you understand the cost of being forced to jump ship and restart your career on a new platform. Reflecting back without the bias of the ego, all the warning signs were probably there. You just ignored them. Your thinking was inaccurate because your ego need for status, power or security drove your decision-making.

So what’s the secret to overcoming your own ego? How do you negate the ego’s incessant energy? When faced with a big decision, challenge yourself to answer these two questions.

What fear underlies your motivation – fear of failure, fear of losing prestige, etc.? Acknowledge that unconscious fear drives much behavior.

When you visualize an event happening what emotion(s) do you feel? Be honest. Do you feel a sense of personal victory or superiority – do you want to make others jealous of your success? How much are these emotions impacting your judgment?

The more your ego controls your emotions, the less accurate your decisions will be. You eliminate the ego when you honestly address your psyche’s fears and understand your true and real motivation. Pinpoint your fear and motivation by using accurate language to describe it. Understand your innermost drivers, not to judge yourself, but to deepen your self-knowledge. Subordinating your ego will enable you to step back and identify those red flags that you might have previously overlooked.

Removing your ego to think accurately is easier said than done. It’s difficult to win against your own ego but with concentrated effort and practice you can definitively minimize the number of unforced errors in life!

Dr. George Watts

Laurie Blazek