KATHMANDU: During consultancy services, I sometimes have to visit small private firms. The most disgusting part for me there is to watch a senior talking to a junior. There is no respect in communication. Seniors do not hesitate to demean juniors in front of a stranger and in the scenario, the stranger is me! I can see how embarrassing it is to the juniors. I wonder why people like to demonstrate their superiority over others. In fact, this behaviour itself makes their leadership quality inferior. Superior leaders recognise people as people and treat them on an equal status. That is their secret to their successful teambuilding and motivation.
The weakness of displaying superiority is not limited to organisations. It is common among all human beings. Writers and editors, singers and actors, politicians and public figures are no exceptions. They may not display it in a crude form, but in subtlest form it remains strong. I am going through Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg. The writer tells an anecdote. Her friend was once mugged and she threw up her arms and immediately yelled, “Don’t kill me, I’m a writer!” Goldberg analyses, “Writers get confused. We think writing gives us an excuse for being alive... Often we use writing as a way to receive notice, attention, love.” Listen to the connotation — It is not okay to kill a writer but it is okay for other people to be killed! Can it be that a writer’s life is more valuable than other people’s life?
We are guided by ego in all our struggles to higher success — be it the struggle to become a boss or political leader or millionaire. The desire to become a writer, artist or actor is not different. Many people are proud of their talents and see themselves above other people in general. I like UG Krishnamurti’s understanding of talent. He says that talents are different abilities. Different people have different abilities. You can enjoy your talent and benefit the world but that does not in any way justify your feelings of being more valuable than other people.
Some people feel superior due to their education or intellectual capacity. In Nepal, people do not hesitate to call themselves intellectuals. They openly organise gatherings of intellectuals. The trend carries the undertone that only some people in this country have intellect while many do not. Again, can this be true? Everyone has intellect in their own way. If doctors know about medicines, drivers know about driving and auto-mechanics know about repairing a car. If engineers know how to design houses, farmers know how to farm. Pilots know how to fly planes and boatmen know how to operate boats. Intellect is involved everywhere. It is good to acquire higher intellect but leaders of real higher intellect do not separate themselves from rest of the people.
It is very natural that people struggle for a higher position, name, fame, wealth, intellect and so on. In fact, we should be struggling for our progress. But the purpose of this struggle should not be to prove oneself superior to others. That is the craving of your ego. The desire to be special will not make you special. This desire itself is so common among everyone, that paradoxically, it will only make you too common. In contrast, besides your positions, the willingness to remain ordinary makes you extraordinary. Real extraordinary people remain very ordinary. If the meaning of ‘extra’ is ‘more’, being extraordinary means being more ordinary. The higher understanding one has, the more ordinary one becomes. Thus, one becomes extraordinary.
(The author is a leadership trainer and consultant associated with ‘Kabule — The Wise Leader’. He can be contacted through firstname.lastname@example.org)