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Leading your ego

The last two years, leadership has lost much of its prestige. Take Bernie Madoff, the stockbroker from New York, for instance. In a certain way, he became the personification of the money rush on Wall Street. And what about Rijkman Groenink? Many of us still think he is personally responsible for the disintegration of ABN AMRO. They didn’t show the good example sufficiently. They fell from the pedestal we had put them on. This is how we reject them, but on the other hand, it is interesting that we always seem to need someone to lead us, show us the way and help us getting through confusing periods; someone we can put on a pedestal. But how realistic is this actually?

What happens to us when we can be the leader ourselves? Our ego can be a serious obstacle when we are in charge, because we think that the company’s success or failure largely depends on us. This is a big mistake however! We have to realize that an organization’s success mostly and mainly depends on its people who have been doing all the work for years already: the people who make the difference each day. Our own ego makes us think that the leader is the only person making a difference. Moreover, in most American management literature, the role of the leader is slightly being exaggerated. Extended biographies about great ‘leaders’ are published. Many of these books become best-sellers, which further mystifies the image of the leader. In general, the leader’s contribution is considerably exaggerated. An organization’s success only depends in a limited way on that one person having the temporary privilege to hold the highest position.

A relevant quote in this context comes from China, about 2500 years ago: ‘the best leader doesn’t attract attention. And when the work is done, people will say they have done it by themselves’.


By Paul Donkers

"my purpose is to help improve strategy execution, to create high performing teams and coach for effective business leaders"

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