Posts Tagged ‘egotism’

Technology gives society the false idea that is perfectWe live in a society that has, in large part due to technology, been hoodwinked into the beliefs that each of us knows everything, sees everything, understands everything, and is an expert about everything.

In other words, most of us never give – because we don’t have to – everybody the benefit of the doubt.

More of us have been entrapped by this fallacy than we might believe. Before we jump in – this is one of the signs that we are in the majority of the entrapped – and say, “That doesn’t apply to me!” let’s examine what it not applying to us looks like.

We may be surprised at what we find if we’re willing to listen and are willing to be honest with ourselves. Unfortunately, those traits are very rare anymore because most of us are convinced that we already know all the answers so there’s nothing else that we can learn.

Learning and the change and growth that comes from that, my friends, is at the heart of unquintessential leadership.

However, if we believe we already know everything and there’s nothing else for us to learn, then that is our death kneel to becoming quintessential leaders. We will never become quintessential leaders if this is our mindset and our attitude going in.

It is in this aspect of the societal tendency to not give the benefit of the doubt that quintessential leaders stand out from everybody else.

benefit-of-the-doubt-wordsQuintessential leaders distinguish themselves as being willing to give the benefit of the doubt to other people by what they are and what they understand about themselves and what they don’t do.

Quintessential leaders are humble. They do not elevate themselves in their own minds nor do they try to elevate themselves in others’ minds.

They’re not always clamoring for people to look at them or to be the center of attention. They understand that it’s never “all about me,” but instead quintessential leaders understand it’s “all about others, and in reality, very little in life is actually about me.”

Social media has done a lot to destroy humility in general.

All the selfies and “Hey, look at me!” tweets, instagrams, and status updates have played right into the pride, vanity, and narcissism that seems to be hardwired into human nature. 

To achieve, maintain, and grow in humility, then, in this environment of easy self-centeredness and self-absorption, takes constant, diligent, and honest effort along with persistent self-control.

Quintessential leaders exercise self-control and they are constantly inventorying themselves: their attitudes, their motives, their thoughts, their words, and their actions.

As a result, quintessential leaders know their limitations and they know their strengths and weaknesses and that leads them to give the benefit of the doubt to others.

What does giving the benefit of the doubt to other people look like in quintessential leaders? (The opposite of these are what unquintessential leadership and not giving the benefit of the doubt look like.)

Quintessential leaders recognize we are not omniscient. We can’t read minds. We can’t read hearts. We don’t know The Great Gatsby's symbol for omniscienceeverything about everything.

Quintessential leaders don’t know everybody. We don’t know everything about everybody And while quintessential leaders may be experts in a few areas, we are not experts in everything.

And we are certainly not experts on everybody, because we know we aren’t even experts on ourselves (in other words, there’s a lot about ourselves that we don’t even know).

Therefore, because quintessential leaders know we are not omniscient, we are not always at the ready with answers for everybody about everything with the understood premise that these are the right answers and these are the only answers.

Quintessential leaders know that is the height of vanity and foolishness.

Life and people are way, way more complicated than that and none of us mere mortals is up to the challenge of knowing everything about there is to know about everyone and everything.

Because they listen to hear instead of running roughshod over everybody else to talk more loudly and to make and remake their point because they’re right and it’s so important that Jumping to conclusionseverybody knows it, quintessential leaders don’t jump to conclusions.

Quintessential leaders understand that jumping to conclusions will always lead us down the furthest path from the truth. And it will damage, sometimes irreparably, our relationships with other people because it creates chasms and builds walls, instead of building bridges.

Quintessential leaders understand that there is an unknown backstory behind every human being and that our experiences in life are customized and unique, so they don’t make presumptions and assumptions based on their backstories and their life experiences.

PresumptionSince quintessential leaders aren’t living life from a self-centered and self-absorbed perspective, we don’t inject ourselves and our lives into the lives of other people by being presumptive and making assumptions.

AssumptionBeing presumptive and making assumptions are another sure way to go down a path that is the furthest from the truth. And this damages relationships too. Sometimes beyond repair in this lifetime.

Quintessential leaders are not quick to accuse and are not quick to criticize other people. 

While quintessential leaders evaluate behavior (actions and words) at the highest ethical and moral standards and are responsible for bringing that behavior to light and correcting it by coaching, they are careful not to personally quick to accuseattack the people who have the behavior that needs to be corrected by accusation and criticism.

This is probably the most difficult part of giving the benefit of the doubt. We who are striving to be quintessential leaders fail in this part, hopefully not regularly, more than we should.

Being quick to criticize and being quick to accuse other people quick to accuseshows a lack of mercy and this will also lead quintessential leaders down the furthest path from truth and it will damage – almost certainly beyond the ability to fix in this life – the relationships.

There is an constructive, big-picture method that quintessential leaders use to coach toward correct behavior.

Very few people know and understand this method, nor are more than a small minority adept at it. And, of course, there are always people who just don’t care.

Coaching a wrong, misguided, or negative behavior looks like this:

  • This is wrong (misguided, negative).
  • This is why (concrete facts, not feelings).
  • This is what you replace that with (concrete facts, not feelings).
  • This is the framework of what it looks like, step-by-step, from start to finish (the big picture).
  • I’ll be right here beside you to guide and help you, as you need me, through the process (investment in the process).
  • We’ll succeed (common shared goal).

Unfortunately the “reward” of quick accusation and quickly criticizing other people on a personal, below-the-belt level is much more attractive and much stronger to the majority of people than the reward of actually offering to invest in the process of coaching and helping someone change and correct a behavior.

So the time has come for us to look into our own quintessential leader mirrors to see if we strive all the time to give people the benefit of the doubt.

Don’t look at anybody else. This is about you and your mirror. This is about me and my mirror.

I can’t change anybody else, but I can certainly change me. You can’t change anybody else, but you can certainly change you.

Do we usually give other people the benefit of the doubt?

Do we give the people we like and/or are most like us in personality, temperament, background, and interests the benefit of the doubt, but not the people we don’t like and/or who are unlike us in personality, temperament, background, and interests?

Do we never give anyone the benefit of the doubt?

We need to look in our mirrors closely, honestly, and rigorously to answer these questions. 

Do we have the character, the desire or the courage to look in our mirrors, or will we assume it doesn’t apply to us and on go on doing what we’ve always done.

I have the character. I have the courage. I have the desire.

Do you?

I plan to make this a weekly feature on this blog, beginning with today’s post. I’ve done this type of post a couple of times already this year, breaking a story or two down in detail.

However, beginning with this post I will summarize the stories – some you’ve heard and some you probably missed – and give a big-picture statement about the the failure of quintessential leadership in each of them, and then invite you, as quintessential leaders, to do your own more in-depth analysis about the quintessential leadership failure aspects of each of them.

I do this because the heart and core of who I am is a coach. My role as a coach is to highlight and guide, but I firmly believe that each of us must actually put some effort into the analysis, the learning, and the application process to fully benefit from it. We’re on this journey to become fully quintessential leaders together. Therefore, we must all be engaged and participating in the process. I invite you to join me in meeting that goal.

The first story of unquintessential leadership that caught my attention this week was the FBI sting that left 10 Atlanta police officers facing corruption charges, when it became clear that they were accepting large sums of money from street gangs to provide protection during drug deals. Law enforcement is entrusted with protecting those of us who obey the laws – local, state, national – and removing those who don’t – street gangs and drug dealers certainly are among those – and this is yet another example of that trust and trustworthiness being broken.  That is unquintessential leadership.

For a detailed and in-depth discussion of the components and traits involved in building trust and being trustworthy, please purchase my eBook, Building Trust and Being Trustworthy. You can also purchase a paperback copy from Amazon or a Kindle version.

The second story also involves law enforcement – Chris Dorner, who was terminated by the Los Angeles Police Department in 2009, and took a resoundingly unquintessential leadership route to protest what he believed was an unfair and unmerited – which it could well have been – termination. It doesn’t take much, from a big-picture point of view, to see how this is unquintessential leadership. Any claims that Dorner had about bias, prejudice, and mistreatment during his tenure and in his termination from the LAPD (he laid this out in a very coherent, well-organized document that shows this was an intelligent, sane man talking) were erased by how he chose to force the issue: with threats, murders, and hostage-taking. Eventually it cost Chris Dorner his life – who didn’t know that would be how it ended? – but if there were any real problems that he wanted addressed and corrected, no one will listen or do anything about it because the last actions of his life seem to support his termination.

Beyond the obvious – I do hope the obvious is obvious – what can we learn from this about how we resolve issues and about how our methods need to be consistent with quintessential leadership? It’s important to remember that not every issue, dispute, or disagreement is win or lose, with no in between. Some are. But those involve moral foundations and principles and are non-negotiable under any circumstances.

But for the everyday issues, disputes, and disagreements we deal with, are we able to see that a draw is sometimes quintessential leadership in action? The “how” we do something matters as much as the “what” and “why.” Are you the kind of person who draws a line in the sand about absolutely everything? If so, you’re not a quintessential leader.

I urge you to take some time to think about this in your own lives. I have seen many people with legitimate whats and whys go down in flames because of how they tried to address and resolve them. On the other hand, I’ve seen just as many people who had absolutely no basis for their whats and whys – in in many cases, were completely on the wrong side of everything – prevail because of how they dealt with them. Both of these are the extremes, but it should be a lesson for us.

Another story of unquintessential leadership this week involves a company. Carnival Cruise Lines failed all leadership tests this week with their handling of the result of an engine room fire on Carnival Triumph earlier this week. The right – and quintessential leadership – action would have been to send some means of rescue (ferries, another ship with support to do the transfer, etc.) out immediately. Carnival Cruise Lines didn’t do that because of the cost involved. Their greed – as well as their belief that their industry is “bullet-proof” – underlines the lack of quintessential leadership at this company.

I read a statement from Carnival Cruise Line CEO Gerry Cahill this morning and if I were on the board of directors for this company, he would have been terminated right after this statement: “We pride ourselves on providing our guests with a great vacation experience, and clearly we failed in this particular case.”  Failure was simply a matter of not providing a great vacation experience? Mr. Cahill is an unquintessential leader in action.

Another continuing story of unquintessential leadership this week are the Armed Services Committee confirmation hearings on Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense. The “politics-as-usual” circus surrounding this highlights how much of a lack of any quintessential leadership there is in American politics. But freshman senator Ted Cruz of Texas brought the unquintessential leadership spotlight on himself this week during the hearings. Read the story. This is not quintessential leadership. Period.

And the last story of unquintessential leadership that I’ll point out today is the story of Oscar Pistorius. You can read the story if you don’t know it already. Any time I hear of athletes involved in incidents like this, my first thought goes to overinflated egos – an unquintessential leadership trait. My second thought goes to the rampant use of performance-enhancing drugs among professional and Olympic athletes, which is illegal, unfair, and wrong – also unquintessential leadership traits – and the emotional and hormonal side-effects of those drugs, which can contribute to actions like these.

Ultimately, though, the full responsibility for this falls solely and completely on Oscar Pistorius. If he took performance-enhancing drugs, he knew the risks, and he made the choice. All the tears, shaking, and “strongest denials possible” won’t change the fact the he is responsible for every choice he made – including this one.

Quintessential leaders never have to – nor in fact, would – promote their efforts, a piece of a larger picture and larger plan. They are interested in outcomes and their contributions, as leaders, are devoted to successful outcomes for their teams, business units, organizations, and society at large. That is where their focus, their attention, and their efforts are directed.

So, when you hear people continually promote themselves as leaders, constantly touting their sole accomplishments, pointing everything back to themselves, you are seeing someone who is not only not a quintessential leader, but who is not even in a leadership position, except in his or her own mind. Everything the person is about is self-aggrandizement

Although self-aggrandizers are abundant throughout society, they seem to be even most prolific in business, sports, donald trump self-aggrandizementand religion. Donald Trump in business comes to mind. Muhammad Ali in his heyday in boxing comes to mind. The world of religious organizations is so full of these types of muhammad ali cassius clay self-aggrandizementpeople that it is difficult to pinpoint a single example. And the so-called religious types are the easiest to recognize and unmask because they all claim to be some sort of “only” representative of God and yet none of them agrees with each other or God.

Self-aggrandizers have an exaggerated and unsubstantiated view of their accomplishments and their contributions. They are legends in their own minds. They are completely self-absorbed and everything they say and do is from a “the world revolves around me” perspective. The prominent words their vocabularies are Imy, and me.

Self-aggrandizers believe they are superior to the rest of the human race. They also believe that they are unfairly treated and under-recognized by everyone else, primarily because, in their delusional , self-important opinions, everyone else is too ignorant and too blind to see how great and awesome they really are.

So, instead of spending time actually accomplishing the results that quintessential leaders are known for, the self-aggrandizers spend all their time promoting themselves. We’ve all worked with people who are self-aggrandizers and they are a detriment and an obstacle to productivity and success because they are consumed with nothing but being seen and heard and constant attention-seeking. These people suck up all the energy of whatever environment they are in and frequently stall or stop any progress if they’re allowed to continue unchecked.

The roots of self-aggrandizement are strong delusion, an overinflated ego (pride, vanity, arrogance), and insecurity. When a person has to spend all his or her time telling everyone how special, great, wonderful, awesome, superior he or she is – when in reality, if a person really is any or some or all of those things, it is readily apparent to everyone as a pattern of behavior and as just who that person is all the time and usually the person doesn’t even see those qualities in themselves, but it is other people who point them out – that person is first trying to convince him or herself those things are true – insecurity – and second trying to convince everyone else they are true as well.

The strong delusion is a contextual issue. Everything said to or about the self-aggrandizer gets assimilated through the “I, my, me” filter that dominates his or her thinking, and comes out, at best, twisted completely out of or spun completely away from its original context, or, at worst, completely invented (a lie). Regardless of which way the self-aggrandizer comes to his or her conclusions, he or she is always right and everyone else is always wrong.

An overinflated ego will argue, fight, contest, and keep conflict going. The ironic thing is that most people will tire of the endless arguing, fighting, contesting, and conflict after a while because they realize, at some point, that there’s no reasoning with a self-aggrandizer and the continuation of the discussion is a waste of time, but because the self-aggrandizng person gets the last word, so to speak, this boosts his or her ego even more and further convinces him or her that he or she is right. It’s a vicious circle, not based on evidence or fact, but simply based on the self-aggrandizer’s ability to out talk and outlast everyone else.

Insecurity is the knock of reality on a self-aggrandizer’s door. But since self-aggrandizers live in a world of strong delusions and super-sized egos, they will never allow this reality to get any further than the door. They lock insecurity out with even more self-aggrandizement.

So, if you see or hear someone who is always making presumptuous and momentous claims about him or herself, their positions, their accomplishments and who and what they are, you should recognize that that person is a self-aggrandizer. He or she is not any kind of leader and not a quintessential leader.

We as quintessential leaders need to recognize self-aggrandizement and remove it from among our teams and remove ourselves as far from it as possible. It is one of the most toxic and destructive forces that we will face in life. Giving it any attention will only encourage it and make it worse. We don’t need that. Our teams, our business units, our organizations don’t need that.