Character and Personality #7: Courage

by Gary Monti on August 17, 2010

Tiger Woods’ difficulties with his swing and Mark Hurd’s (HP’s CEO) inability to fill out expense reports correctly could have a great deal in common – complexes. With Tiger there was admission of adultery repeatedly with different women. Hurd’s situation was different and a lot more bizarre since he settled out of court for sexual harassment in which there was no sex (this was validated by the woman who was the victim and accepted the settlement) and which did not meet HP’s criteria for sexual harassment.

However, he did spent $20,000 on the woman that was mis-reported and could have been a clerical mistake by his assistant since nothing apparently happened. Is that clear to you? If it is, let me know how you figured it out.

In a very public way they both show how trying to succeed simply by ego (the parts of the psyche that have been developed and are the basis of initial career development) has limits and the desire to be complete (integrate the parts of the psyche pushed down to please others) as Self will, when denied, erupt and wreak havoc without any regard to the consequences. In both cases it was sexual indiscretion (or at least in Tiger’s case since Hurd didn’t really do what he settled out of court for and over which he left his job as CEO of one of the world’s top computer firms.)

The bigger issue is the repressed parts of the psyche yelling, “Hey, over here! Ignore me at your own peril!”

Is there anything unique about how they both are behaving? No. As we go through life we all experience the same self-sabotaging behavior in some form (which doesn’t have to be sex) at one time or another. So, empathy is the order of the day for both gentlemen.

A healthy leader embraces his/her complexes and actually works to provoke psychic integration. Most of us, though, step away from doing this proactively due to fear over loss of security, position, control, power, money, or something else to which we are clinging. The belief is it is easier to just keep on doing more of the same hoping that it will work for us as it has in the past. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Refusal to listen to and address those noises coming out of our psychic basement can have disastrous results. For most of us, though, it feels easier to just do something equivalent to turning up the stereo and drowning out the sounds, hoping those things that go bump in the night will just go away. When we do that those entities in the basement just get angrier and stronger. They combine to form what Jung called complexes. Eventually, these complexes break down the cellar door and burst onto the scene. Usually they time it when we have company present; company important to maintaining our hold on what feels important. A real train wreck results.

A term used for these embarrassing situations is “acting out.” A complex sweeps over us and we become a bystander watching the strange behavior play itself out. That is what Woods and Hurd have done – acted out. A common response in trying to repair the situation is to pretend the complex isn’t there and diminish the significance of the problem. The dark cellar is avoided. Ego-based behavior continues until something technical is done to try and stay off-topic, e.g., get a new coach to work on one’s swing. Sounds nice but if the issue is due to a complex, it will just sit there nudging Tiger with every attempt at swinging correctly until the healing occurs.

An Inside Job

A recurring theme throughout these blogs is what occurs in the business world is a reflection of something going on internally. Hurd and Woods exemplify this. In line with this it is sad to see HP’s response to the situation (but that is fodder for a later blog on honesty). So, if the business, career, etc., is to be saved what’s the answer? Save yourself rather than the things you want to cling to. Do it proactively. Do it daily.

Courage

When Woods spoke publicly for the first time after the car accident and coming out of rehab he spoke with wisdom and humility. He owned having drifted away from himself and others and believed the solution was returning to his Buddhist roots. He nailed it! Does everyone have to be Buddhist? No. What’s needed is finding a path that leads to opening the cellar door and inviting those scary entities up into the light to integrate into a life in community.  The big surprise at that point is seeing there was nothing to be afraid of and those hidden parts are actually quite powerful and beautiful! In line with this, good book that is a simple read is “When Things Fall Apart” by Pema Chodron.

There is one caution, though. You could find out there is a need to do something different, requiring a letting go or transformation of the things being held onto. There’s no way of knowing without taking the journey. The one guarantee is NOT taking the journey will insure the loss of those possessions. This is one reason why I put such a heavy focus on risk management.

Change Management

So what are the implications of all this for business? Here’s the big secret.  The piper has to be paid. There is no easy road. Smart money bets are on the leader that not only opens but takes off the cellar door and works to be complete.

Is this difficult?

Yes.

Can there be pain associated with it?

Guaranteed.

Is it rewarding in terms of becoming happy, trustworthy, competent, and capable of being a good team player as well as a leader?

Absolutely.


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