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Sunday, 3rd December 2023



Dr. Atul Shah is not afraid to express his ethical opinions on leadership 

It is rare to hear about humility these days.

Egoism is common, especially among the 'successful' and the 'powerful', and there is also a belief in some corners that it is right to have an ego. Hierarchical organisations tend to 'breed' egos - the people at the top have enormous power and influence, and hence all around them, people are forced to respect them.

For me, egoism shows a strong attachment to status, personal name and reputation, and also a person's money, fame, education or achievements. It suggests somehow that these were all qualities achieved single-handedly, and other people or personal inheritance or family support and values did not play any role in the success. It can also lead to an addiction to self, where all else is somehow inadequate or unworthy.

When given the title 'Mahatma' (great soul), Gandhi refused it, and said he did not deserve it. This, in spite of his huge record of achievement and transformation. No wisdom tradition that I know of encourages egoism. It seems to be a particular character of the individualistic, materialist world.

 If a leader wants to empower, if there is a genuine wish for the organisation to sustain itself, then leaders need to demonstrate humility, not just superficially, but deep down in their character. Leadership is often an opportunity endowed to a person by others - be it staff, shareholders, community members, - to guide them and take them forward. It is fortunate for someone to be made a leader, and given the position, one must exercise it with the greatest sense of responsibility and humility.

Leaders need to have self-esteem, but not ego. They should be grateful for the opportunity they have been given to serve people and society, and to take them forward, in a sustainable way.

Egoism is unsustainable for any organisation or society.

Dr. Atul K. Shah, CEO, Diverse Ethics Ltd.

Article added on 22nd January 2010 at 2:04pm