Ego Reflections from John Pearson

I clicked onto Amazon this afternoon to make sure they had restocked the book, and found a marvelous review from John Pearson of John Pearson Associates, and author of Mastering the Management Buckets.

John is so right – ego is something leaders almost have to evaluate in private in order to transparently consider how their leadership and decision making is influenced by their ego needs.

I love the idea of an online assessment that leaders could take in private.  Maybe that could be done in a way to help leaders burst this bubble of ego.

Here is what John had to say in his review.

“Ego is a megaphone that is always obnoxious,” warns Roger Parrott. His book is filled with poignant insights like that one. His second chapter, “Deflate Your Ego to Expand Your Influence,” is remarkably fresh and convicting.

When is the last time (or the first time), you’ve voluntarily read a chapter about keeping your ego in check? Parrott, the president of Belhaven College, Jackson, Miss., since 1995, must struggle–like all college presidents, mega-church pastors, CEOs and senior leaders–to downplay his own role and showcase the roles of others.

The author offers “a portrait of the showmen” with the compilation of 14 traits, along with brief commentaries, he’s observed in ego-driven leaders. They include:
1. Live Flamboyantly
2. Inflate Vision
3. Act Invincible
4. Ignore Critics
5. Crave Adrenaline
6. Exaggerate Actions
7. Become Sensitive
8. Attract Groupies
9. Demand Appreciation
10. Require Empathy
11. Listen Poorly
12. Enjoy Competition
13. Control Obsessively
14. Ignore Boundaries

Commenting on the trait of leaders who exaggerate actions, he notes: “These leaders move in wide, sweeping motions that take up space wherever they might be. They don’t do anything simply, but every action is so exaggerated that the staff around them is exhausted, rather that equipped, by their leadership.”

After reading these 14 traits to my wife, Joanne, I gave her my brilliant idea: create an online “Ego Assessment for Leaders” and encourage my clients and other CEOs to do a 360 survey with their board members, their direct reports and their own self-assessments. Joanne’s response: “Yeah, John. After you are willing to do that!”

Parrott has 13 more chapters including: “Planning Will Drain the Life From Your Ministry” and “Preempting the Stickiest Challenge of Long-Term Leadership.” The latter focuses on conflicts of interest–a rare and practical look at this leadership stumbling block. This college president’s style reminds me a bit of USC President Steven Sample’s book, The Contrarian’s Guide to Leadership (J-B Warren Bennis Series).

You’ll get your money’s worth from this book in savvy corner office wisdom. Like this from chapter three, “Applause Lasts for a Moment, but Leadership is for a Lifetime.” He writes, “…bad news must be announced, or the gossip and speculation will run far ahead of the facts.” Instead of letting bad news leak out, Parrott is pro-active. “I don’t bring my entire employee base together lightly, because I figure it costs us about $10,000 an hour in wages when we gather, but the cost of not meeting during a time of bad news is much higher. Without the full story, coworkers become fearful, assumptions run rampant, and energy is drained by the uncertainty. Leaders may have learned to live comfortably with a high level of ambiguity, but others have not.

Longview Courage

I just heard from a ministry leader who read chapter 8 – Planning Will Drain the Life from Your Ministry.

Instead of taking a five year plan to his board last week at their meeting (as they had requested), he challenged them to develop an 18 month plan for the future they could see, rather than project into the unknown beyond what was predictable.

He also challenged his team to drill down their focus on preparing the ministry for God’s opportunities yet to develop, and expect them to come.

It takes courage to lead like that….but it’s fabulous!

“The Fast Track To Excellence”

That title was the heading of the email I received this morning.

It was promoting a $159 product produced by Harvard Business Review promising, “The Quickest Solution To Your Management Dilemmas.”

The email went on to promise a number of management tools – which I’m sure are excellent in many ways. I read HBR, and quote their work often in The Longview.

My objection is that even in their marketing materials, the wrong expectation for meaningful leadership is being promoted.  Can we really FAST TRACK excellence or find QUICK answers to complex problems? Not often, if ever.

Excellence is developed only over time. And complex issues are not untangled with simple solutions. But that is the expectation we have created in today’s leadership culture, and these type messages continually raises the bar of unrealistic quick-fix solutions.

I’m sure that “The LONG HAUL To Excellence” couldn’t be sold for $159 (including a CD ROM), but a if HBR wants to teach the truth about leadership, maybe they should try.

Connecting with you through this blog

One of the joys of writing a book like The Longview, is that it triggers new insights as I interact with others about the book.  And most importantly, I can learn so much from you if you’re willing to share from your experiences as well.

From time to time, I’ll use this blog to comment on new Longview ideas, and I trust you’ll share your thoughts as well.

I’d appreciate hearing from you about regarding concepts in the book you found  helpful, ideas you would like to see further explored, and your perspective on Longview leadership in which you might disagree with my writing.  (A key Longview principle is that there is something to learn in every criticism, so I trust you won’t be bashful.)

I look forward to interacting with you.

God bless,

Roger