The Vivekananda series …… 6. Dropping the “I”

You would find shades of this blogpost’s topic over several other blogposts… dropping the “I”. All the Masters through the ages have spoken about the “I”, the ego that stops us from seeing our true selves.

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Some of you may wonder, how this quote applies to the corporate world …. This probably applies even more than the other quotes of Swami Vivekananda that I have posted so far. He talks of dropping the ego and love for all. Just look at the root cause of office conflicts, politics, one-upmanship, stress – it’s people’s ego and not enough love for a fellow human being.

Most organizations have elaborate engagement programs. Improving engagement is an important task for teams. Most leaders forget that three words will bring more engagement than all the fancy programs – Sorry, thank you, and well done. Show appreciation, gratitude and accept feedback. Dropping the “I” helps in engagement !

Think back to your college or school days and your special group of friends. Why do you feel wonderful being with them ? They know you well, they accept you with all your warts, they don’t sit in judgement and there is no ego involved. They are happy if you do well. Why aren’t you able to make similar friends at your workplace ? It can be done and it does happen sometimes.

For me it has happened twice in the last organization I worked for. The initial peer group that I had when we started the organization was a group that knew each other well, accepted each other and played to each other’s strengths. We didn’t try to pull each other down and didn’t let ego come in the way. We are still close friends and we never had to watch our backs with each other !!

Similarly we created group of managers as part of the “destiny” series (a transformational initiative) in the business group that I managed for three plus years. In both instances the business results were great, engagement was great and one looked forward to coming to work everyday.

Leadership and dropping the “I”

As leaders it’s imperative to not let ego come in the way of your success …. The higher you go, the more your ego is fanned. People will make you feel you are the best and that you can’t go wrong. Very soon, you will begin to believe in the myth. You will believe that you really are the best, that you can’t go wrong. Your ego cannot take the smallest slight or a tiny failure. Many great leaders trip over ego issues.

Watch how a new leader comes in with all humility and listens to you. Then slowly the ego gets in and soon he/she has stories from his/her life and his/her life only to solve all your problems. There are no more listening sessions !! The ego trip makes you create fiefdoms, not let innovation happen and people just don’t want to work with you. Leave your ego at home, preferably wash it away everyday as you take a bath. Pepper your day with appreciation and gratitude… Watch how people love you and want you to be their leader.

Servant leaders are the true leaders and servant leaders work without letting their ego come in the way. Think of the great Nelson Mandela, a great leader across all times. If he had let ego get in, there would have been bloodshed when apartheid was abolished and the transfer of power happened. Our very own Gandhiji never called himself the Mahatma and tried in every way to remain humble.

This quote is in a way the description of a servant leader. You should test it at work with the leaders you enjoy working the most, and some that you don’t. Reflect upon your observations and am sure many of you will conclude like the Master – dropping the “I”, helps one to be a great leader.

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