By Peter Jeff
The Leadership Mints Guy
Here’s a scenario to remind you to keep your ego in check. Reading time: 2:52
The vice president hosted a luncheon for 20 members of his team to celebrate a successful product launch. Everyone munched on great-tasting sandwiches between celebratory cheers at their favorite deli. After awhile, everyone was full of good food and good laughs.
Then, the waiter arrives with a second round of sandwiches for all 21 people at the table. The staffers were astonished. “Who ordered all this,” asked a couple of the team members in unison? “Well, I did,” chimed the vice president. “You all deserve it. Job well, done.”
It didn’t matter to the vice president that no one at the table wanted another sandwich. Neither did the vice president as it turned out.
This afternoon’s Power Lunch had little to do with feeding his staffers. It had more to do with the vice president feeding his own ego. He had the power of an expense account to spend money on lunch. So he made a unilateral decision to order another round of sandwiches.
Just because he could. Even more astonishing is just how astonished the vice president was at the negative response he got from his staffers for the extra sandwich.
We all know managers (masquerading as leaders) who absent-mindedly abuse power and seemingly aren’t even aware of it.
Their emotional intelligence is so low they see their world only in their terms. They don’t know what they don’t know. If they knew they might echo poet Robert Burns lament:
Oh, what some power
the Giftee gives us
To see ourselves
as others see us.
But seeing ourselves as others see us is difficult, especially in wielding power in the workplace where sycophants too often find a welcome mat in the leader’s office.
As author Jeffrey Pfeffer notes in his book: POWER, Why some people have it and others don’t: “It’s tough for those in power to see the world from others’ perspectives, but if you are going to survive you need to get over yourself and your formal position and retain your sensitivity to the political dynamics around you. “
The professor of organizational behavior at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business has studied leaders for 30 years. He writes that “it’s hard work to keep your ego in check, to constantly be attentive to the actions of others.”
Beware the next time you’re hosting a team luncheon. Check your ego at the door. And order a big piece of Humble Pie.
Check your ego to keep your leadership thinking in mint condition.