The Importance of Checking One’s Ego at the Door

The Importance of Checking One’s Ego at the Door

When I first started out in the business world, I thought I had it all figured out. I was convinced that if my established Mentor was earning a certain healthy sum doing it his way, I could certainly double that by doing it my way.

I quickly discovered how wrong I was. And not only that, but I had to go crawling back to my Mentor to learn how to do things right. It was an object lesson on the value of humility, a trait that is often misunderstood or scorned in the business world.

Those who fall into the latter camp view humble folk as doormats -- wimpy, soft, easily dismissed. As John Eades, CEO of the business consultancy LearnLoft, points out in a  piece he wrote for Inc., they are nothing of the sort. They are still competitive and ambitious; it’s just that they don’t have a crying need to toot their own horn -- or pretend they have all the answers, as was true in my case.

Humble people are self-aware, and willing to listen and learn. They focus on team goals rather than seeking individual credit and appreciate those who seem to know less than they do -- emphasis on the word seem.

In short, they make ideal co-workers, not to mention leaders. 

Humility folds neatly into the concept of emotional intelligence, which is crucial to effective leadership. And indeed, humility tends to be contagious, to positively impact an organization’s culture from top to bottom. Humble leaders are more likely to delegate and innovate. They are more likely to recognize and develop those around them.

Consider the example of a middle school principal named Amy Johnston, who early in her career overcame the doubts of her staff -- some of whom questioned her experience level, some of whom wanted to see another candidate hired -- by making an appeal to them. As she recalls, it went like this: “I absolutely cannot do this without you. I need you.”

The late business leader Robert Greenleaf (1904-1990) termed this “servant leadership” -- being confident in what you can do, and capable of admitting what you cannot. The result is that you keep your eye on larger, team-oriented goals.

“Why would anybody accept the leadership of another,” Greenleaf once asked, “except that the other sees more clearly where it is best to go?”

This is what I came to understand early in my career, and what I continue to understand now, 20 years after making the leap from the corporate world to network marketing -- that it’s not about me, and indeed never was. Rather, it’s about engaging in “people-building,” as Greenleaf called it, as opposed to “people-using.” It’s a matter of bringing the best out in everyone and understanding larger goals, as opposed to worrying about individual success.