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The Ego ContinuumSAMPLE

and say, “No, this is

and say, “No, this is shit! This isn’t what I wanted.” The hypocrisy continued. At times, some of us would attempt to challenge back, asking for some level of clarity or guidance. The results were always underwhelming. The typical response was, “You’re a senior leader, you should know.” Had I realised my mindreading skills were so well-known, I’d certainly have gone into a different profession. Jane was a data-driven, numbers-focused manager. She rarely demonstrated a sincere or authentic people focus. I believe her background was statistics-based, and it showed in her great ability to work with data. She was well-versed with how her organisation was performing from a data and financial perspective. She did, however, require constant reminders that there were people behind those metrics. When her staff would fail—or rather, do things Jane didn’t like—she would get fired up and emotional. Her reaction to the slightest of inconvenience caused by an employee would be, “Get them out of this business!” Jane would also need reminders that you can’t just fire people because you don’t like them or they made a miniscule mistake. Jane was consistently good at being an inactive leader. She was full of contradiction, had many misunderstandings, and a lack of engagement. There was a perceived lack of any sincerity when she would give you a compliment, most of us didn’t buy it. Most things felt like it was just another tick in a box. We were senior leaders attempting to lead well, seeking examples being set. Sadly, most of the time, there was nothing worthy to emulate. Jane created a name for herself within the organisation as consistently demonstrating bully-like behaviour. It was our job as her senior team to defend her when our direct reports accused her of doing something shitty, but how could we, when we all also believed she was a shitty leader? It’s challenging when 22 the ego continuum

you’re not a shitty leader, but you report to a shitty leader that you have to defend. Oh, the politics of corporate life. Upon personal reflection while writing this chapter, there were some moments, although rare, where Jane did emulate active leadership traits. Albeit great to witness, these were not consistent behaviours. Like a spot of sunshine on a continuously cloudy day, she showed rare moments of authentic behaviour where she appeared to take an interest in others. I can recall that during these rare weather breaks, I was so inspired to see her effort that there was nothing I wouldn’t have done to help and support her. During these rare times, I wanted to raise her up and defend her across a sea of negativity. Then, in true and unfortunately consistent shitty leadership behaviour form, a frigid cold front from the north appeared and the shittiness resumed. The sunshine was gone. Those rare moments at least showed me that anyone is capable of becoming less of a shitty leader—you just have to recognise the shittiness and work to fix it. It’s all about choice. It’s all about recognising where you’re choosing to be on the ego continuum. Jane was the epitome of an inactive leader who focused on numbers rather than people. To this day, I doubt that she was ever truly aware of what she left behind. If she did have any level of self-awareness, she hid it well or simply didn’t care. Self-awareness and your ability to own it at all levels is a critical foundational step in reducing your levels of shitty leadership. We will delve into this more in the coming chapters. If you were a Jane, reading this today, hearing about experiences from an employee many years ago, how would you like to have been remembered? What impacts have you left behind? We will delve more into the components of active leadership throughout the book. Bespoke feedback delivery is essential for building trust and rapport with your staff. This will help Active Leadership 23

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