|May 27, 2013
from the desk of Chuck Violand...
Good Monday morning, <<First Name>>—
Having self confidence is a requirement for successfully launching a company. But, as with so many things in life, too much of a strength can become a weakness, and these weaknesses can get us into trouble.
In Part IX of this series on Stage II Stall™ I discuss how important it is for business leaders to stay vigilant so the self confidence that serves us so well in growing our companies doesn’t morph into swollen egos that can lead to our declines.
OVERCOMING STAGE II STALL™, Part IX
Cause #4: Swollen Ego
by Chuck Violand...
Perhaps no story in history better demonstrates the tragic consequences of arrogance driven by a swollen ego as that of the murder of Julius Caesar. Caesar went to the forum on the Ides of March apparently unaware he was to die there that day. But how could he not have known? A soothsayer warned him to “beware the Ides of March.” There were signs any superstitious Roman would have recognized: an owl hooting during the day, a lion running through the streets. Even Caesar’s loving wife, Calpurnia, begged him to stay home. If all that wasn’t enough consider that Artemidorus, a teacher in Rome, wrote down the names of the conspirators and tried to give the note to Caesar—three times! The last time was just moments before Brutus and the boys attacked.
Caesar felt he was invincible and he paid for his arrogance with his life. And while the story of Caesar is tragic it’s not unique. The corporate landscape is littered with the names of once great business leaders whose careers were destroyed, and their companies seriously compromised, because they allowed their success to turn into arrogance fueled by an inflated opinion of themselves.
Making decisions while under the influence of a swollen ego is like getting behind the wheel of a car when you’re drunk. Your reasoning is clouded. And while you may have convinced yourself your decisions aren’t being affected, everyone around you knows better. We put our companies and ourselves at great risk when making decisions that are distorted by our egos rather than based on informed data. In a previous article I referred to this as “situational blindness” where we don’t see situations as they are, but rather as we want them to be. We bend reality to fit our needs—in this case our egos. We don’t do our diligence, we fail to consider the long term consequences of our decisions, or we simply ignore input from our chief advisors because we think we’re above all that.
The good news is that, just like with Julius Caesar, business owners have warning signs letting them know their businesses, and the decisions they’re making, are being overly influenced by an inflated ego. Unfortunately, just like with Caesar, too many times business owners ignore the warnings. Oh, sure, we still go through the motions of asking people for their opinions, but everyone has learned to recognize this for what it really is—a thinly veiled attempt to have them nod their approval as they rubber-stamp the decisions we’ve already made.
So, now our companies are hit with what attorneys might call double jeopardy. Not only are our business decisions being made blindly, but our best people become de-motivated when they find their input is no longer valued. Rather than feeling like respected members of a vibrant team, they start to feel like voiceless cogs in a spinning wheel. It doesn’t take long for them to begin searching for a place where their opinions are valued.
Warren Bennis sums it up when he writes “Authentic leaders, by contrast, don’t have what people in the Middle East called “tired ears.” Their egos are not so fragile that they are unable to bear the truth, however harsh—not because they are saints but because it is the surest way to succeed and survive.” What business leader couldn’t benefit from that kind of thinking?
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