“There is no room for narcissism in public service.”
That’s not a famous quote or even an assessment of recent political figures’ behavior. Just a recent thought initiated by the bad behavior in my own organization by an “expert” brought in for his experience and ability to meet the metrics our leadership demands. He is very smart, an expert in his field, a closer on difficult tasks,…and a petulant child who can’t abide a single word of criticism. My coauthors and I serve the national security apparatus of our great nation. As such we all understand there is a mission greater than us that requires we set aside our personal objectives, our personal feelings and our personal assessment of our own performance. We’ve written before that great leaders balance confidence and humility in a manner that allows us to set aside personal agendas and personal feelings in order to achieve something for the nation and those who serve in harm’s way. I can’t remember a time when either of my coauthors used the pronoun “I” when talking about their profession. The individual referenced earlier regularly crows about “what I did” even when he admits later that it took a large team of professionals to get things done. What set me over the top recently was when, while I was away for other business, he physically intimidated one of my female subordinates because she asked him a question that he interpreted as an affront to his accomplishments. You see, even though he is a closer and meets the metrics demanded, he’s the kind of leader that focuses on the accomplishment over the people that make it possible. Those kinds of leaders leave a trail of broken subordinates, damaged relationships and skeptical peers in their wake. When I confronted him about the incident, all he could say was, “People need to recognize that I know what I’m doing. I’m an expert brought here to get things done.” In C.S Lewis’ classic “The Screwtape Letters,” Screwtape states “No man who says, ‘I am as good as you.’ believes it. He woudl not say it if he did.” I’ve found this true with the real heroes I’ve met in my life. Special Operators who have killed and narrowly missed being killed; grandfathers who saw the horror of World War II in both theaters and refused to talk about it; women who have been abused and refuse to let their abusers drag down their lives. None of them tell anyone they need to be recognized for what they’ve done. They simply quietly go about each day as the new gift it is and look for another way to serve someone else.