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Eleven Thoughts on the Ego in Success and Power

Original Spanish version published in El Comercio newspaper (Peru), March 4, 2018

Regardless of the “amount” of power or success we may have, holding positions with some level of responsibility always comes with challenges and opportunities worth revisiting. Here are a few:

  1. The external signs of success or power may confuse or seduce us to the point that we forget that every position of power or responsibility is temporary, has a beginning and an end, and always ends.
  2. The challenge is to keep in mind why the task was assigned, because “power” is not inherent to oneself but instead to the duty, post, purpose, or service mission that defines it or whom it represents.
  3. Therefore, it is crucial to always remember that the power given by responsibility is only a means to fulfill a mission, to serve a specific purpose or a greater goal, and that we must always wield it ethically and properly. It is not to be used for our own benefit or to satisfy the needs of our ego.
  4. The ego isolates and sometimes shuts down communication –we hear only those who say what we want to hear without valuing opposing opinions– and this can lead us to lack empathy and become arrogant. This has a direct impact on our ability to achieve results.
  5. Arrogant attitudes arising from our ego equate to a profound lack of respect for the people who work with us and for those around us. They affect short- and long-term relationships, and of course, irreparably damage our personal brand.
  6. Many in positions of power who fall victim to their ego begin to feel immune to failure, and incorrectly assume that their success today guarantees their success tomorrow.
  7. The ego makes many people neglect their future professional development and personal growth. What’s more, few strive to keep their professional profile up-to-date in order to prepare for when their “power” ends. And later, life gets very complicated for them.
  8. Success is often achieved thanks to our skills, talents, or expertise, but our defects or weaknesses tend to gain strength in situations of responsibility. Few seek to work on the latter, blinded by their ego and the fantasy that their power will last forever.
  9. The challenge is to remain fully conscious of our weaknesses and defects and the negative impact that they can have on our professional performance, internal balance, interpersonal relationships, and reputation.
  10. The vanity that can come with success or power makes many become distant from their loved ones or stop responding when their friends or co-workers ask for help. What goes around comes around, and they will pay for it later receiving the aloofness and resentment they have sown in others.
  11. Keeping an unassuming attitude at all times, remembering that power is given –always temporarily– in order to serve consistently, ethically, and effectively protects us from ourselves and safeguards others from the arrogance of success and the temptations of power.

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