Leading Beyond the Ego is the Next Conscious Self-Development Requirement for Leaders

light-switchOver the last 15 years or so there has been real movement towards leaders understanding the need to engage with their emotions, improve listening skills, and adjust behaviors to encourage rather than demand performance. Even though only some leaders have taken on board these important messages, there is ample evidence to prove that Emotional Intelligence in a leader helps improve the performance of organizations.

I believe learning to manage our ego will have the same impact on leadership development over the next 15 years as managing emotions and emotional intelligence has had in the last 15.

Having learned to manage their emotions, the next stage of development for leaders, which I predict will have a major impact over the next 15 years, is to manage their ego. We call these leaders Transpersonal Leaders – radical, authentic and performance-enhancing, yet caring, ethical and focused on sustainability. Although there is an accepted need in many circles that leadership needs to be more values-based, there is precious little research or information on HOW to actually do that. My colleagues and I believe that learning how to manage our ego is the best way to bring our values a touchstone for all our decisions.

So how do we do that?

First, we must recognize that there are four main drivers of our ego: power, prestige, recognition and reward. It is our desire that one or more of these four act as a barrier to us leading beyond the ego. And they may change from time to time. In my earlier career, I acknowledge that power was more important because I thought I could run the organization better than others. Today, being honest, it is recognition that is the main driver of my ego. And there is nothing wrong or immoral about these drivers as such. However, we must learn to manage them in an authentic and transparent way, because as leaders we are paid by our organizations to make the right decisions for the organization and its stakeholders.

To achieve this we need to bring our values and judgment into full-consciousness in order to reach the right solution. This means consciously considering how decisions align with our values and what impact it will have on you and others. For example, there is nothing wrong in principle with wanting to progress in one’s career but if we make decisions for the benefit of our career that cause the organization’s stakeholders to suffer then we are not acting in a values-based way.

Likewise, an organization has an ego that often causes it to think inwards for its own narrow benefit to one set of stakeholders (eg. profit for shareholders) rather than thinking more broadly to the benefit of all stakeholders such as the directors, employees, customers, suppliers, the community, and the planet. Ask yourself who are all the stakeholders in the organization, what is their order of priority, and do they need to change for the sake of long-term sustainability of the organization?

Once we have understood the impact of the various drivers on our ego, we need to work out what other drivers we might have that benefit more than just ourselves and what our purpose is. Why are we here on this planet? How can we improve it?

This moves leaders forward from emotional intelligence to values-based “spiritual” intelligence.

There are many studies from around the world that have identified that Millennials (the next generation of leaders) and Generation Z (the ones that follow behind Millennials) attach a greater importance than previous generations to having a meaningful job, having a boss who cares and to be more involved in decisions. Older generations have to accept the responsibility that having been agents in developing these needs, we must now respond to them to build effective and sustainable organizations. So whilst I would argue that Transpersonal Leadership has always been the best kind of leadership, in the past one could still be successful using an individualistic authoritative style. But that will absolutely not be the case in the future.

To help us move beyond the ego to become Transpersonal Leaders, we need to improve our decision-making and develop our own personal touchstone.

We are taught throughout our lives, and especially while in the education system, to make decisions based on logic and rational thinking. The reality is we actually make decisions based on four non-conscious brain processes: intuition, insights, instinct and our ethical philosophy – and then use our logic to develop the rationale of how we came to a decision in order to get it approved and supported. Understanding our own bias and prejudice within each of the non-conscious decision-making process to make the best decisions can only be achieved by using our cognitive brain to bring all these processes to a greater level of consciousness.

In ensuring our decisions are always values-based we recommend developing a personal touchstone of core values and transpersonal qualities by which we assess potential decisions and alternatives in advance.example-touchstone



John Knights

John Knights

John Knights is co-author, with Danielle Grant and Greg Young, of LEADING BEYOND THE EGO: How to Become a Transpersonal Leader. He is co-founder and Chairman of LeaderShape Global. Knights is an author, lecturer, and thought leader in leadership development. For more information, please visit www.leadershapeglobal.com

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