Saturday, December 27, 2008

Ego and I

About a year ago, following discussions with those who know me and care for me, I decided to raise my own profile as a third sector leader. It made sense. I had things to say, a book coming out and an urgent need to bring new investment into my organisation.

This has involved doing the usual things: a regular colunm in Third Sector, occasional pieces in national newspapers, the odd profile spot in the wider media, a range of non Exec roles and not a little networking.

The effort worked. I now have a bigger profile. I take part in the debates and, I hope, ruffle the odd feather. But it has come at a price. During the first half of the year I neglected my organisation. People felt, with me out promoting my book all the time, that I had, effectively left. As a result, they didn't feel I was there for them. And if I wasn't `there', why should they be? My appraisal mid-year said it all. Either go and do it now or stay and be a proper CEO.

My response was to reallocate my time, get my eye back on the ball and re-engage with my organisation. Still do the other stuff - but make sure people knew that, when it got sticky - my priority was to be back on the farm.

Whether I have succeeded or not I don't honestly know. The vibes are a lot better, I know that. And I feel a lot better. The heat and light of being out all the time is enjoyable at the time but can, when you look back, feel like slightly frittered time. There is something important about having a proper job and not just being part of the London-based scene. You really can spend all of your time working the media, the conferences, Whitehall and the seminars. Although I find it agreable enough work, it doesn't feel quite like real work, if this makes sense.

And then there's ego. For most of my adult life I have experienced, as many people do, an odd combination of both high and low self-esteem. I have always, on one level, known I have some ability and that I can do most things I apply myself to do. On the other hand I easily default to to the `I'm not good/clever/interesting enough' mindset that has kind of been there from the beginning.

This year I have probably received more praise and recognition than in all of the years of my life combined. This has had, in the short term, a very positive effect. But it doesn't last. You kind of end up where you always were. Whereever that happens to be.

The year I have had has made me ask the hard questions about why I do what I do. I think I now realise that some kind of search for recognition has always been part of it. That achieving social good is also part of an agenda which is quite strongly linked to my own psychological needs.

Where does this leave me going into 2009? A bit less personally ambitious perhaps. What the bit of recognition I did get showed me that while immediately gratifying, the focus on self that it brings is not particularly nourishing. Indeed, the thought of focussing on myself a little less going forward brings with it a sense of relief.

The only fear this leaves me with is that I know that I, like many others who have made things happen socially, is that without my demons pushing me so hard, I may actually be less driven to make good things happen.

Which is something I may just decide to live with.

1 comment:

Adam said...

Really interesting post - comes across as very open and personal!

I think all 3rd sector orgs can really benefit from raising the profile of their leaders no matter the size. I think some CEOs etc could do more to raise their organisations profiles by doing a bit more personal profile raising themselves.

After all if you look at the public and private sectors there are very recognisible leaders and personalities. Their profiles generally benefit their organisations/causes but in the 3rd sector we havent really got the hang of it yet!