Bernie Anderson
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the blog

Current musings, whatever they may be. 

Empathy and Ego

Self-awareness could be one of the most important characteristics of excellent leadership. This is not always the most discussed leadership competency. But it may be the most assumed. I mean, highly educated and experienced leaders should have learned the basics of self-awareness? Right?

Not according to this Harvard Business Review article. When it comes to performance, self-awareness beats an MBA. Every time.

I connect self-awareness to empathy.

Knowing yourself, knowing your emotional triggers, and knowing how you're perceived is key to leading well. It's also key to not placing yourself at the center of every equation.

Empathy is impossible if ego is at play.

Success is also more difficult. Real success. The kind of success that brings internal satisfaction and fulfillment with external joy and harmony. When we look at the blabber-mouthing self talk of most so-called leaders we see in the news, we might be tempted think differently. But don't be deceived. You and I haven't heard of most of the folks who are actually successful.

And that's quite intentional. Those folks wouldn't have it any other way.

Ryan Holiday wrote an important book on this subject entitled "Ego is the Enemy." He puts it simply.

If you can’t swallow your pride, you can’t lead.
— Ryan Holiday

Leading from the back means leading with empathy.
Leading with empathy begins with self-awareness.
Self-awareness is recognizing when ego has raised its ugly head.

Once we're aware of ego at work, it's time to stop talking and start listening. Stop being the host of a hyped-up, late-night, purveyor of self infomercial. Be okay to not be in the center. Be comfortable with silence. Listen.

There's no need to impress the people in the room. Just do impressive work. People will listen to that.

Eventually they will hear what you have to say, because "self" is out of the center. Care for others takes over. You become listenable.

This kind of empathy will rule the day. The meek (the selfless, those who have let go of ego) will inherit the earth, in the end.

Those times when I remember: It's really not about "me" at all. 

Those times when I remember: It's really not about "me" at all.