Healthy Leaders


The Danger of Possessiveness

Jess MacCallumJess MacCallum

Personalizing the impersonal is when a person, from fear or ego, adopts an idea as a personal issue. The idea, regardless of merit, becomes a part of them and that means debate on the issue itself slows to a crawl. Every attempt to discuss the idea takes on personal meaning for them and they “need” to win any discussion associated to preserve their own worth.

Ideas, hardly ever being entirely original, need room to grow under the influence of other people. However, leaders owning the idea want to control the idea’s development so it does not get beyond their ownership and therefore they perceive they lose credit for it. Frequently, when assailed by honest questions, this type of individual will become defensive, and perhaps even resort to spurious comments and accusations directed at the questioners. This is known as an argument ad hominem (to the person), meaning that if the character or motives of the inquirer can be brought into question, then their perspective is invalid.

In leadership, owning my own idea can be dangerous. If, as a leader, I place my value or my self-esteem on every idea I initiate, I will eventually become isolated from the valuable input of my team. I will lose credibility and the team will suffer. Additionally, the idea itself will suffer since any idea that has been too deeply personalized will never fully develop. It takes a leader of courage to place his ideas on the table and ask for input whether it’s positive or critical. But good leaders know: It takes a village to raise an idea.

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