Recently, I was chatting to a colleague about a person’s meteoric rise in the company over a short time. This colleague pointed out that the reason the person was so successful was that “he doesn’t have an ego”. This particular person apparently never pulls ranks or loses his temper on people, always listens to others and doesn’t mind stepping in to take the rap on behalf of his team when needed. “The most unselfish person ever!” remarked my colleague.
This stuck me as a strange remark, considering this person pulled in £1.2 mn last year and if you’ve worked in a company long enough, I’m sure you will agree the road to the top is often filled with a lot of political intrigue, and perception manoeuvring. This got me thinking, did my colleague really mean that this person was working for the greater good of the company, and the rest somehow had other distractions? Or did this ‘person’ have a better way of dealing with people than the rest of us?
I am curious when people always mention “lack of ego” as if it were a good thing. I guess it means that people full of ego are always perceived to be very selfish, and hardly care about others and are usually not very popular. If I put this in context with the very successful person in discussion, it strikes me as paradoxical. I would consider a CEO to be a very selfish person too, having made it to the top in an extremely competitive landscape. Pitching yourself as the best amongst the rest, does involves a lot of “me vs. Mr.Weatherbee” all the time.
Yet every colleague I speak too doesn’t remember this person as an “ego-istical” person. If you ever asked what they thought of him, they only had good things to say. “A very positive person and a great communicator…..” Ive not heard them say “he is the sharpest person around here...” the assumption always being that you have to be smart to get there. It’s a given. Assuming that I wasn’t taking a minority opinion, I have a different view. This person was selfish about his career, one of the smartest around and most importantly always “seen as doing the right thing for the company”.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not even suggesting for a moment that this person was only a poseur and he wasn’t either good at his job or he didn’t work hard. My feeling is that person was more mature and “self-aware” than his colleagues. Measuring your actions and words, and the impact it has on others is a very difficult task. The best of us fail, as it’s a difficult thing to check your emotions and make a cool decision under pressure. A sharp person who knew how to carefully land his message to his team during tough times and without being thought as an asshole definitely would go places. It also implies a lot self-confidence as you tackle difficult situations without being seen as insecure or as “losing it” in front of others. When you need to go higher, most of your team and your peers need to back you and say he is the best person for the job. I think that this particular person exhibited all of these traits. If he never lost his temper around others, he probably is measured. If his colleagues always see him as working for the greater good of the company, probably his maturity and insights are more long-term than tactical.
“Lack of ego”, is a strange term indeed to describe him. If anything “a supreme ego” seems apt!