Ego Development and Job Success
Development is Awesome For Your Career
Leaders with a higher developmental capacity (also known as action logic) are proven to perform better in unstable, complex environments with many stakeholders and constant upheavals—in short, the way our world is increasingly operating.
What Are Companies Really Hiring For?
This means that the best employers are hiring for developmental complexity, unconsciously or consciously. They are hiring for how we think, not what we know. That much is becoming obvious. But most of the programs claiming to teach “how to think” are still teaching skills that could be outdated in a few years. All the “hows” in the world will expire, except one: how to transform ourselves.
Learning how to develop your ego—your sense of self, your point of reference—is like learning how to learn, on a whole different scale. The rewards are exponential. Unfortunately, our current educational systems rarely account for this developmental complexity. And most job trainings teach what to do, not how to evolve our sense of self so that we are doing, being, and thinking from higher levels of complexity.
The Essence of Development
The essence of increasing developmental complexity, to summarize the massively complex, decades long research of Harvard developmental psychologist Robert Kegan, is making subjective experience an object in our awareness.
Whereas before we were simply “angry,” (subjective experience), now we are aware of that anger, what it does to us, and what it is like for others to experience it (we see it as an object in a more expansive subjective awareness).
The Benefit of Making Subject Into Object
The benefit is that we now get the choice of how to express it. We no longer act out of habit or instinct.
This increase in choice is one of the major benefits of development—by becoming more and more aware, we get greater choice and therefore greater freedom. But beware of the old adage: greater freedom goes with greater responsibility.
As we do this process over and over, we uncover massive amounts of previously unexamined assumptions, beliefs, habits, and attitudes. And by making them objects we get to decide whether or not to activate them in service of our larger goals in life. They no longer dictate our emotions and actions unconsciously, yet we still can draw upon them when contextually appropriate.
How to Develop Development
What practices foster development? How can we take this process into our own hands?
Unfortunately, these concepts are so new and the research projects so long-term and complex that we have to wait for conclusive, cross-cultural, peer-reviewed and repeated experiments proving the effectiveness of certain practices.
Yet early evidence points to meditation as one of the universal tools of development. This is no surprise; almost all of our greatest heroes throughout history—the ones who deliberately sought to make the world a better place—practiced some form or fashion of meditation with rigorous discipline.
Many suggest that an Integral Life Practice that actively engages body, mind, psyche, and spirit on a daily basis accelerates growth. Like most growth, the best practices are ones that push boundaries without seeming impossible.
The Importance of Community
And almost all developmental researchers agree that the larger systems and communities one is a part have a gravitational effect on individuals. If you spend the majority of your time in a particular culture, you are likely to be influenced by it.
While this is basically common sense, making a conscious effort to spend time with people who can push your developmental edges and support your growth is a difficult process—it often involves taking a risk to get more intimate with people you usually admire from a distance, and spending less time with people who reinforce ways of being that are no longer serving you.
Choosing or creating a company culture that will help you grow can be even more challenging, but it can be done.
Finally, the practice of “circling” consistently takes our in-the-moment, subjective experience and places it in conversation as an object, for us to reflect upon and to receive instant feedback from others.
The Pursuit of Happiness
Development happens when we make our subjective experience into something we can observe from the outside. Another way to say this is that what once “had” us, we now “have.” The pursuit of money and success might have once “had” you; but now you “have” it so you can choose to pursue money, or you can choose to pursue something else like happiness. It no longer drives you unconsciously, and it gives you more options. As a result, you are more likely to find satisfaction in life.
The beauty of development is that it transcends and includes previous ways of being. You do not have to give up the pursuit of money just like you do not have to give up anger in our previous example. Ironically, your ability to see and choose against your previous way of being often makes it easier to get what you want.
Take a moment to consider what subjective experience you might make into an object. Is the pursuit of happiness something that has you? Or do you have it?
“With vertical development, leaders perform better across a host of mission-critical domains: • Think strategically • Think systemically • Think contextually • Decision-making • Lead transformational change • Inspire vision • Build relationships • Collaborate • Create innovative solutions • Tolerate ambiguity • Resolve conflicts • Develop themselves and others • Facilitate learning • Reframe challenges • Seek out feedback” From Barrett Brown’s The Future Of Leadership For Conscious Capitalism,http://www.consciouscapitalism.org/engage/event/486/speakers/3233/item/3390?page=1Benay, Phyllis. (1997); Bushe, G. R., & Gibbs, B. W. (1990); Eigel, K. M. (1998); Eigel, K. M., & Kuhnert, K. W. (2005); Kegan, R., & Lahey, L. (2010); Lewis, P., Forsythe, G. B., Sweeney, P., Bartone, P., Bullis, C., & Snook, S. (2005).
 “80 percent of upper level management have higher levels of mental development. And, 80 percent of junior managers have junior levels of mental development.“ From The 80/80 Principle by Robert McNamara: http://www.robmcnamara.com/Blog/index.php?categories=Harvard
 Making Business Personal by Robert Kegan, Lisa Lahey, Andy Fleming, and Matthew Miller, Harvard Business Review, April 2014. http://hbr.org/2014/04/making-business-personal/ar/1
 Ibid. Also, I am happy to help in this regard. Contact me at http://www.jordanmallen.com
 Like meditation, or like riding a bike, Circling is something one must experience to fully understand. Some people call it “intersubjective meditation,” others “unique self communication.” Regardless of what you call it, one of the fundamental principles is to truly embrace and love whatever is present in the moment. Ironically, through the subject-object dialectic, this loving space actually allows for rapid development. It also highlights the vast array of complexities, polarities, and contradictions we hold within ourselves and within a group, in any given moment. This builds our ability to see and manage complexity and contradiction outside of ourselves as well.