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May 14, 2020

Leading Beyond the Ego: Putting Others First

Katherine Baldwin


I used to spend a lot of time with leaders. In my previous career as a political reporter, I followed prime ministers and presidents to various corners of the globe. I asked them questions and wrote down their answers. On occasion, I sipped champagne in their gardens.

Some of them dazzled me with their power and status, their color and charisma. Others seemed ordinary, distinctly black and white.

Back then, I got a buzz from hanging around VIPs. Perhaps I thought their importance would rub off on me and boost my fragile ego. Years on, after a long personal development journey, during which I have grown in self-esteem and transformed my career, I now find myself in a leadership role of sorts.

I coach clients who are struggling with unhealthy relationships, low confidence, or self-neglect. And, as the host of women's personal growth retreats, theories on leadership have taken on a new importance. Which is why some of the points in "Leading Beyond the Ego," by John Knights, Danielle Grant and Greg Young, caught my eye.

Leading for the Greater Good

When leading a women's circle, there's a part of me that wants to shine, that wants to be seen as doing an excellent job. There's a part of me that longs for glowing reviews and shout-outs on social media.

But this part of me is my ego – and it's not a healthy guide. If I let my ego run the show, I'm heading for trouble. One bit of negative feedback and I'm knocked off my perch. One dissatisfied customer and I want to jack in my coaching and return to my first career.

This, though, wouldn't benefit anyone. The key is to approach my work from a different place – a place beyond the ego. A place where I know that I am using my gifts and talents for the greater good, finding purpose in my past pain, and being of service to those who struggle.

Empathy and Emotional Intelligence

How do I get to this place? I think the authors are spot on when they talk about transpersonal leadership arising from the sweet spot between rational intelligence, emotional intelligence, and spiritual intelligence.

I don't recall ever testing my IQ but I succeeded at school, at university and in my journalism career, so I must have a reasonable intellect.

When it comes to emotional intelligence, I know that I've always had plenty of it. However, it was buried for years.

Starting in my teens, I deliberately disconnected from my emotions. I used various crutches to numb how I was feeling, from excess food to compulsive work.

My relationship with myself was messed up, so I wasn't great at communicating with others. I lacked empathy for myself, too, so I struggled to feel empathy for others.

Intuition and Creativity

I'm pleased to say that all that has changed, thanks to many years of healing. I am now back in touch with my emotions and able to tap into my intuition and creativity. I feel my feelings and I process them – often before deciding how to act. This can be extremely helpful when in a leadership role, as this book points out.

My emotional intelligence makes me an effective coach. I am able to tune into others' emotions. In fact, one of my strengths is my ability to sense that a client has buried feelings and help him or her to to bring them to the surface so that they can begin to heal.

And then there's the third piece of the puzzle: spiritual intelligence. I have written and spoken about spirituality often. But, as the authors note, it can be a tricky topic.

That's why the phrase spiritual intelligence is such a good one. To me, it denotes a connection to my inner wisdom, to the truest, most authentic part of myself; to the woman I was born to be.

Leadership and Authenticity

And when I operate from this place, everyone benefits. By serving my truest purpose, I can have the biggest impact.

My leadership journey is in its infancy and my work remains on a small scale. But this book has reminded me that I'm on the right track and that the more I move beyond the ego, the more effective I'll be.

Perhaps I rubbed shoulders with leaders for so many years because I knew that there was a leader inside me. But I was too scared to allow her out.

Now I know that we don't have to be scared. What can go wrong when we strive to be the truest, most authentic versions of ourselves?

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