What kind of leader are you? Are you the kind people follow with enthusiasm?
If not, it can be helpful to retrace your steps.
However you feel about where you are in your leadership position — satisfied, miserable, or indifferent — you must first accept responsibility for being in that spot. You cannot legitimately blame others or circumstances.
You must put the spotlight on the roots of your personality. These roots form your “self” and serve as behavioral guidelines. I’m talking about your id, your ego, your superego and your soul. Becoming aware of these aspects of your personality helps you to know yourself, assume a leadership role and be more of an inspiration to your reports and those around you.
Though it may seem surprising, all your actions — whether constructive and nurturing or destructive and impoverishing — have their origins in the id, the ego, the superego or the soul. Let’s first spend some time defining these often-misunderstood concepts.
Id: The id is your “low self,” where your more unrealistic, selfish and primitive drives and desires are located. Often oriented toward achieving immediate pleasure or gratification, it represents the impulsive, unconscious part of your personality, out of touch with the external world.
Ego: The ego or “ego self,” on the other hand, is where you mediate between the pressures of the id for immediate gratification and the realities of the external world, according to Sigmund Freud. This requires greater moderation and circumspection. The ego modifies, regulates and ameliorates the needs created by the id. It operates on reality, working to satisfy the id in socially appropriate ways. The ego looms as the primary driver behind every phrase that begins with “I” or “me.”
The reason we have an ego, again according to Freud, is that to be able to effectively function in society, we must be able to regulate our basic needs and at the same time allow for the needs of others.
Superego: Just as the ego controls the impulses of the id, the superego or “ideal self” works to improve your morals and life values. It also provides guidelines for making judgments. However, unlike the general efforts of the ego and the id, the efforts of the superego are quite specialized. It is the superego that holds your internal moral standards and ideals. This is your sense of right and wrong, often passed down from parents or established by societal norms and customs. When successful, it causes you to feel proud. When not, you can experience guilt.
Once you understand the meaning and influence behind the id, the ego and the superego, the challenge is to be aware that there is yet another part of your personality, the soul, which represents your “higher self.”
Soul: The soul (in our psychological context, not in the religious one with which it is often confused) is the part of you that allows you to feel fulfilled and purposeful, authentic and compassionate, kind and giving, etc. The soul can be viewed as independent of the body, yet still rooted within it. I like to think of it as your essence — that nonspecific, unfathomable essence that makes each of us the unique, often altruistic individuals that we are. It’s the soul where you must look for your own development as an evolved individual possessing a “higher self.”
As a leader, you must remember that neither the soul nor the ego can be viewed in a materialistic way. The only way to understand them is through collecting and analyzing experiences. In other words, how do you act when confronted with a particular set of circumstances and interactions?
For instance, when your team member comes up with a great product development idea or solves a problem on which your group had been working for a while, you need to give this employee full credit. Do not minimize his or her role in order to toot your own horn. The evolved individual listening to his or her higher self focuses on growing people, not making themselves look good.
The main distinction between the ego and the soul is that the soul often does the opposite of what the ego is intended to do. Your soul is your inner essence. It represents your strive and effort to become the authentic version of yourself. The ego is a little different.
When you are driven only by your ego, you can overreact to outside stimuli. You can rely on negative emotions and unchecked assumptions, make impulsive decisions or fail to consider reality. You can have unrealistic, self-centered conversations, fail to listen or treat others with disrespect or without compassion, etc. But this is not who you really are. The ego doesn’t represent your true self; the soul does.
When you come from a place of self-centeredness or from the ego self, it’s obvious, and it does not serve you well. Coming from this place does not build authentic relationships, and it does not motivate. Why? Because the all-important soul “ingredient” is missing. It is the soul that allows us to feel empathy: the main motivator of effective leadership.
It’s up to you to learn how to inspire your ego to align with your soul, which represents your “higher self”, to produce the best version of yourself and establish a proud, unique leadership identity. Once you know how to do this for yourself, you will learn how to inspire and grow your followers.
This article was originally published in Forbes.
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