Your ego is not you. It’s a structure built of a lifetime of experience, disappointment and pain (and some good stuff too). Your true self is the consciousness that lies beneath the ego. It’s built out of love and purpose. But your ego doesn’t want you to know that. The trick of the ego is that it convinces you that it is you.
Ego arises from our need for significance. Just as our need for certainty isn’t inherently bad, neither is our need for significance. Having a high need for significance doesn’t automatically make you a malignant narcissist. Significance is another way of saying that we need to feel that we matter. We need to be validated. That’s just human. And it’s universal. But, if we don’t manage it well, our need for significance can develop into a significant problem.
Most of the leadership mythology we subscribe to was created in the 20th century world of fossil fuels and mechanistic, production-oriented businesses. In the 21st century, that world is dying. We can see before us a new world, one of ideas, knowledge and innovation, but we’re not quite there yet. It’s still emerging. And as a result, we’re kind of in between things.
Stepping into the new world is a slow process. And it’s messy. In the old era, leadership was about efficiency and uniformity, and the best way to achieve that was highly structured, top-down leadership. But in a world where everything is changing, top-down can no longer work. Or as Otto Scharmer and Katrin Kaufer put it in their book, Leading from the Emerging Future, “Our inherited leadership vocabulary is no longer fit to me...