Ego games are not so easy to dismiss as they are to ridicule. Arrogance, indeed, is the first temptation of leadership. Not to be so tempted, furthermore, is not even necessarily a good sign in a potential leader.
One who cannot come to terms with the thought of being a leader is someone whose natural mode of self-expression can only lie in some other field of action.
Nor should it be supposed that a person’s unwillingness to lead necessarily marks him as humble, or that another person’s acceptance that it is his nature to lead marks him as egotistical. Admittedly, creative expression of all kinds requires at least some degree of ego-consciousness. It is by creativity, however, when rightly directed, that we can develop to our own highest potentials.
It is in fact to our own greater self-consciousness that we owe our ability, as human beings, to raise ourselves, and to improve our material lot a gift that is denied the lower animals.
For only because of man’s capacity to tell himself, “I want to improve my lot; I want to change myself,” can he begin the long upward climb from the fogs of nascence to the crystal clarity of enlightenment.
What is important in every creative expression, including that of creative leadership, is not to allow one’s creative flow to be blocked by the thought of “I.”
The ego itself must be used creatively.
It is the very thought of “I” which first generates creativity: “A new product is needed by my company; let me try to invent one”; or, “I’d like to write a new song”; or, “I accept the responsibility for leading this army to victory.”
The important distinction lies in the direction of one’s flow of energy. If that flow is focused inward upon the ego, in the thought of one’s own importance, it becomes contractive, and limiting. If on the other hand it is a radiation outward from one’s self, it becomes expansive. The more powerful that outward flow, the more magnetic it will be and, ultimately, the more self-transforming.
If one’s concentration is on “I, the great inventor,” or, “I, the great poet,” or, “I, the great general,” one’s creativity will become blocked by the ego.
But if, on the contrary, one’s energy- flow is directed outward toward the thing one wants to invent, or the song one hopes to write or the war one intends to win, one’s creative energy becomes liberated, and the flow toward success is assured.
Leadership, then, must be focused on the job to be done.
Your own role in the completion of a task should not be the focus of your attention, however vital that role may be to the task itself. The greater one’s mental emphasis on himself as the doer, the less he will be able to accomplish whether as a leader or in any other capacity. The greater his mental emphasis, on the other hand, on the job to be done, the more likely he will be to succeed.
To recapitulate these principles:
* The ego can be either a hindrance or an aid to creativity. It is an aid if its energy-flow is toward the job to be done, rather inward upon itself.
* Self-importance in a leader is self-defeating. The spirit of a group reflects the spirit of its leadership. Remember, leadership is not an ego game!
Swami Kriyananda is a living disciple of Paramhamsa Yogananda. He is also the founder of Ananda Sangha with nine communities around the world.