Posted by: darcymullin | July 6, 2012

Leadership – a continual checking of ego


Recently I have read a couple of posts that have got me reflecting and motivated to write.  First, I read Pernille Ripp’s blog Pro D for Busy People and one from George Couros Summer Blogging Challenge.  These posts have inspired me to get back to being part of the conversation and not the passive observer that I have been.

Today I read Tom Schimmer’s latest post, Real Strength.  Tom is a good friend and I have had the opportunity to discuss a number of his perspectives on leadership.  I think he has compiled a great list of attributes that when compiled accurately define what real strength is.  I think the list goes beyond leadership and into parenting, friendship, even relationships with your significant others.

For the purposes of this post I would like to focus on the concept of ego.  It is something I struggle with, and something I am working on.

 According to Tom, strength means respecting the disrespectful.

When people, be it students, parents, colleagues are disrespectful, it is ego (or pride) that puts us on the defensive.  How we interpret and respond to the disrespect depends on our ego.  If we believe Ross Greene and accept that people do well if they can, then disrespect is coming from an unmet need within the individual.  We can accept that and get to the root of the problem or attack disrespect head on and deal with the consequences.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t appreciate disrespect, but maintaining my calm and respecting people in spite how they are treating means I have been able to check my ego and will likely be able to resolve the situation.

According to Tom, strength means believing in your greatness without needing to prove it to others.

I got into administration because I believe in public education and as a principal I thought I could have a larger impact.  As I have gained experience and learned, I am not sure this is true and have come to realize it was a rather egocentric (arrogant?) reason to choose administration.  That said, I love being a principal and while I am far from great, I am trying to focus on the work that our school is pursuing and not worrying about the need to prove myself in order to advance my career.  I am trying to improve each day and focus on what I can do for the school and people I work with, not worrying about how it looks to others.

According to Tom, strength is recognizing when your ego is taking over.

This is hard…real hard.  As a principal, I am often presented with opportunities to engage in different district initiatives.  Some, I am interested in and will benefit our school and some I know will “look” good.  I find it hard to balance the two.  I try to pursue those that fit with our school and our culture, or those that are of direct interest to me, but letting opportunities pass is hard.  I try to check my ego and be clear on what my motivation is.  We all like accolades and positive reinforcement for a job well done, but doing something for the accolades does not consider moral purpose.  We act with moral purpose when we take ego out of the equation.

How do you deal with ego?  I know I am still a work in progress.

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