Sachin Sharma said, “Those who have no dominion over themselves will try to seek dominion over others. Often these people will try to get into positions of authority so they can feel powerful through telling others what to do. This is an example of what it means to be of weak character.” Stopped me in my tracks. At first I took it personally because I have never hidden the fact that I have some major control issues. And I’ve always been drawn to positions of authority without really thinking about why, so this quote made me think. But I kept going because really started looking at the bigger implications.
I have a long history of being the kid who got stuck with the group assignment and had to either do it all or fix it in the end. I was always the kid who was put in the group with challenging people because I had a moderate temperament and could make people feel accepted. But no one ever saw the toll it had on me. No one ever saw the quality of my work—they saw that I was able to “make things work under difficult circumstances.” While that did give me some sense of resilience and even some creativity, it always felt like I was in survival mode and that I had to take everyone to the top with me.
Honestly, I can admit now that I was so frustrated because I wasn’t allowed to shine. It made me want to take control so I could at least get some credit for doing a good job. But that was never the focus. Maybe it was meant to show me the value of teamwork. Yeah, I could do it on my own but I had to learn and understand what other people could contribute. The problem with this set up at a young age and repeating the pattern is that I was paired up with people who didn’t want to contribute. And then it has turned into a personal issue where I couldn’t pull people’s development out fast enough to contribute.
Part of me feels like this sounds feeble. Like the reality is that no one is inherently altruistic enough to sacrifice the recognition for work they have done for the greater good. If I were a good leader, would I need to tell people what to do or would I be able to guide them to their potential? I’m really not sure. Human nature and my experience with people tells me that people need guidance and structure on some level. That isn’t about power. If you want to harness the collective efforts of people for a common goal, they need direction. It’s that simple. If we are focusing on a million different goals nothing would get done.
So where do we find the balance between ego and accepting what needs to be done because it needs to be done? It isn’t about control, it’s about what is necessary for a goal and making sure everyone does their part. And anyone can say it isn’t about the recognition, but no one is altruistic enough to not do something for a reason and if you’re championing a cause, of course you want your name attached. I don’t think there is anything wrong with recognition—it is when you let that go to your head that it’s an issue. That is where it’s an issue of character. Recognition and power as the only goal, that is an issue.
I don’t agree that seeking control is an indicator of weak character. But I do agree that there needs to be balance where we know how to control ourselves first. I also believe it is possible to achieve that balance. More importantly, I think the best indicator of character is asking ourselves what type of person we want to be and how we act on that. Some of us are adept at identifying the details of a needed task and executing to achieve it. Some of us are good at generating ideas that need to be put together. It is neither here nor there until you determine what you do with your abilities. Decide well.