This month's questions were submitted by Carrie Ridge, manager of performance and learning, PETCO Animal Supplies, San Diego.
Carrie Ridge:How do you see one's ego most often getting in the way of great leadership?
Stephen Covey: I see it first when people become personally ambitious and substitute the cause of the organization for that ambition. Many organizational cultures are so independent-minded that personal goals become the driving force of individual behavior; the goal of personal achievement replaces a sense of contribution. Second, when people are insecure within, they often borrow strength from without. Whenever position power is questioned, ego raises its ugly head. Third, many organizational cultures applaud ego as a form of strength, when in fact, just under the surface of ego is weakness. Fourth, in his book, Good To Great, Jim Collins shared his research of organizations that were "very good" in their performance for a long time and then became sustainably great. The number one differentiating factor was that these organizations were led by someone who possessed humility and willpower. Their focus was on the people, the cause and the customers. Adolf Hitler was an egomaniac. Gandhi was a truly humble person.
C.R.: What is the best way to work with someone whose ego gets in the way of great leadership?
S.C.: I'd say, first, smile about it. Don't get it into your head. Don't empower their weakness and disempower yourself by obsessing about their egotism. Second, anticipate their goals and behave and contribute in ways that enable them to achieve those goals.
C.R.: How do you personally find balance?
S.C.: Long-range planning is key. I schedule important family time two years ahead so that we always keep family first. I also schedule very significant amounts of time for service and pro bono contributions to worthy causes. A second way to find balance is to involve your family in your mission so they understand temporary seasons of imbalance and join and feel involved, even if at a distance, in the mission. Rather than resenting such work, their positive support becomes a way for them to contribute to those causes. A third is, when you work, work efficiently in a very intense, organized way. This will create more time for sharpening the saw, relaxation, fun, service and family. Also, try often to do two things at once. Build strong relationships with others so you can use the phone and modern technology. Combine "high tech" with "high touch." At least half of all meetings are unnecessary. The other half could be cut in half. What a waste.
C.R.: Could you work for a leader you didn't respect?
S.C.: Yes, if the cause was important enough and I could make a significant contribution by compensating for the leader's weaknesses—knowing full well that I may never get recognized for it and that the leader may or may not ever be inspired to change.
C.R.: What is your biggest life "aha"?
S.C.: I would say my biggest "aha" would be that when you put God at the center of your life, all other things work together for your good.
C.R.: What impresses you most about leaders today?
S.C.: Those with vision, courage and initiative. Those who develop complementary teams, where individual strengths are enabled and weaknesses are made irrelevant by others' strengths. Those who affirm the worth and potential of those around them so clearly that they come to see it in themselves. Those who have a track record of great results.
Stephen R. Covey is co-founder of Franklin Covey and author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and The 8th Habit.
To submit, please e-mail three to five questions to email@example.com. Please put "Questions for Covey" in the subject line.