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Individualism creates business crisis
Egocentric individualism is akin to a cell that has gone rogue: both are cancerous; both impact negatively on the unit they are part of. The rogue cell will destroy the good cells around it and eventually the body, the egocentric individualist does the same in family units, in work teams, in business and in the economy.
There are two major human development stages that focus on individualism. In the first stage we develop ego. This includes learning to take control over our life; having a sense of power and energy; and building self-esteem. This happens early in life with the terrible two’s or as a rebellious teenager. Some people become are stuck in ego. They become
- the micro-manager who simply cannot delegate and believes the world is going to fall apart without them;
- the irate team member who becomes controlling when they cannot cope instead of asking for help;
- the business owner or manager whose focus is on a big fancy desk, a car and car parking space, or expensive suit or big house; or
The second stage of individualisation is about growth and self-actualisation. As adults this stage is marked through higher education and/or personal self-development. Here examples of egocentric individuals are
- the leaders who believe in market forces and making profits as the end game;
- the leaders who become corrupted by their power and egocentric decision making;
- the employee who back stabs or blames others so they can get personal gain; or
- the employee who takes a shared idea and makes it his/her own.
We all can relate to people like this. We all work or have worked with them. Some of us have left the organisation because of such leadership or colleagues. They are detrimental to a cohesive culture by spreading fear, mistrust and creating uncertainty through bad decision making. They create a crisis in business and hence our economy. Luckily there are several antidotes:
- Creating a culture that values the ‘We’ rather than the ‘I’;
- The courage to speak up and question motives and beliefs – a necessity if you are a board or advisory committee member;
- The individual’s drive for self-development and personal change so they learn how to revert the negative into the positive; and
- Changing the systems to remove power symbols, change control and accountability structures and the decision making framework, and align job roles with growth opportunities.
Leaders need to apply these antidotes. The challenge therefore is leaders stuck in egocentric individualism. They will fight tooth and nail to retain the status quo…sounds familiar? There are too many examples to list here; one current example is the ICAC enquiry into Australian Water Holdings. Personal change only has a chance when the current way becomes too uncomfortable and the individual wants to or is forced to change and find a different way. Personal change happens one person at a time.
I will be attending the International Conference on Building a Values-Driven Society in Sweden in June. At the conference we will discuss values driven change for individuals, organisations and society. You can call an excited Claudia Perry-Beltrame on 0439457240 to find out more on this topic or culture transformations.