What motives and values drive your actions and decisions? For CEOs and Senior Executives, knowing your current answer to this question and understanding and maturing into an authentic personal response is critical to your success.
Carl Jung, a 20th century psychologist, proposed that as human beings we spend the first half our adult lives focused on meeting our “ego” needs. By this, he means that the work of our “first adulthood” is to make a place for ourselves in the world. This includes building relationships with significant others and finding meaningful work. Because we may not yet be certain of our authentic values, in our “first adulthood” we are often driven unconsciously by our interpretation of the values we inherit from parents or other significant authority figures from childhood.
Notice that I am not judging the above as somehow wrong or abnormal. Being driven in our 20s, 30s and 40s by “external” factors such as pleasing bosses and colleagues and competing to get ahead is normal and necessary.
However, as one reaches late 40s and beyond, the age of many – if not most – large-organization CEOs, the need to move from satisfying ego needs to authentic self needs is important. Leaders in this stage of life who continue unconsciously to be driven by the need to impress or compete with others start to find their work increasingly less meaningful (and to de-rail as leaders). Critically, success as a CEO requires “inner directedness”, an ability to set a direction for the organization based on one’s authentic values and experience and then to lead by example. This “inner directedness” is where the courage to act in the face of criticism and self-doubt comes from.
Making the shift from being ego-driven to being driven by your “authentic self” is not simple or easy. This is where coaching intersects with a knowledge of psychology. Why? Because telling yourself (or having an “expert” tell you) to be authentic or act differently won’t create change that is sustainable in the face of challenge or stress. Making this fundamental shift requires examining your current behavior and motivations, deciding if they feel right, and then being supported in the shift to making courageous (even bold) decisions grounded in your authentic values and your unique experiences.
If the above is intriguing to you, a good place to learn more is a book titled The Middle Passage, From Misery to Meaning in Mid-life by James Hollis. I warn you that this is a book to be read a few pages at a time, but, if you persevere, it is ultimately rewarding. Alternatively, send me an email and let’s have coffee and start a conversation.