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Leadership VII - Intemperance

The SEVENTH of Napoleon Hill’s 10 Major Causes of Failure in Leadership is INTEMPERANCE.


“Followers do not respect an intemperate leader. Moreover, intemperance in any of its various forms destroys the endurance and the vitality of all who indulge in it.”

Intemperance can take many forms but at its most basic I am certain Hill is speaking of the ‘sins of the flesh’ when he identifies that “the most damaging forms of intemperance are connected with eating, strong drink, and sexual activities”. Overindulgence in any of these, according to Hill, is fatal to the success of a leader both in effectiveness and impact on well-being. To get the fullest picture, we should extend that list beyond what Hill states to encompass any excessive or immoderate indulgence in appetite or passion, or lack of due restraint in action or speech.


I don’t think many would argue with the above point about the diminishing levels of respect for and effectiveness of the intemperate leader. More interesting perhaps is that Hill very rightly and wisely identifies the destructive impact that any form of continued intemperance has not only on the individual but, by association, on those close to the individual. Yes, our ‘followers’ will lose respect due to our intemperance and our leadership effectiveness will be compromised, perhaps irreversibly, but more importantly on the personal level we, and those around us will suffer. This is the human side of the equation that I believe we must place greater emphasis on.


The inclusion of intemperance into a discussion of leadership is not only interesting but seemingly odd given that it rarely seems to come up in discussion. Maybe it’s because we assume this to be a given and don’t feel the need to address it in our current times. Perhaps it is still too personal and as a result a bit of a taboo to talk about. It’s possible that in the age of self-help, self-improvement, and the drive toward self-mastery we figure that this is a ‘must have’ and is no longer a relevant point of consideration for leaders. Or could it possibly be that we dislike the discomfort that arises when looking into the mirror at our true selves, and this reflection is what keeps us from digging deeper into this area?


Regardless, this is a highly sensitive and personal area for most of us to consider. It can be very unsettling to lift the lid of intemperate behaviour in ourselves and others. It has surely kept me squirming for the last couple of weeks and unable to gain traction with writing this post.


The foundation of this discussion should be to recognize all humans have their shadow side, vices, and ways of reacting to stress, pressure, high expectations, fear, worry, and uncertainty. All of us possess both light and darkness and are engaged in a never-ending internal dance between the two. Each and every one of us has the potential to fall into some manner of intemperance at any given moment based upon our own physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual makeup and in consideration of the circumstances that we find ourselves. How about we start there before leaping into self-righteous indignation.


One thing is for certain, Hill’s point on intemperance has resulted in my doing a great deal of ‘shadow boxing’ of late. It is forcing me to deal with how my own displays of intemperance over the years have impacted my effectiveness as a leader, how I am respected or not by others, and how my self-destructive behaviours have had lasting impact on myself and those dear to me. I admittedly find myself in the middle of a ‘dark night of the soul’ as I reflect on how I have led my life to this point; and most particularly, where I have gone off the path intended for me and engaged in self-destructive behaviours, acts of self-sabotage that sadly have impacted others in my life. Thanks for putting that giant mirror in front of me Mr. Hill!


Given that, along with the increasing occurrence of mental health and addiction, stress-related illnesses, and family breakdown in our society, we should look at those exhibiting intemperance in any form as human beings first and foremost, imperfect as the rest of us and worthy of compassion. More love, more understanding, and less rush to judgement. All of us struggle, and these struggles can easily manifest in all sorts of intemperate behaviours. Ultimately, there is very little to separate us from the plight of another beyond circumstance, luck, and grace. This is so no matter how much we choose to believe in our own superiority, work ethic, morality, and decision-making ability. We are all but one small step away from falling down in some form and are worthy of help, love, and forgiveness.


Okay, I believe that we understand Hill’s point around the most obvious forms of intemperance and how they impact levels of respect, leadership effectiveness, and individual impact. Let’s move from those and see where else intemperance may manifest itself. Of note, let’s consider how this applies to other actions, speech, and displays of frustration, anger, and violence in any form.


The meteoric leader, the type who is prone to having a temper, who yells and screams with the least provocation, who belittles employees publicly, who threatens, is generally mean, and who is constantly negative with their criticism is surely to lose respect of their team, become ineffective as a leader and will ultimately sabotage their own efforts.


Such leaders create fear, distrust, and disharmony. If nothing else, these types of leaders simply get tuned out by their employees. My mother, apart from being a wonderful strong woman, was also pretty bombastic. As the three of us children aged, we came to take her demonstrations of anger with a grain of salt, began to ignore her, or just laughed at the predictability of it all.


Taking this one step further, and perhaps it is a stretch, I keep coming back to the thought that intemperance,regardless of the form, can be anything that separates us from the truth of who we really are, or who we strive to become. Anything that removes us from the present moment, from our deeper selves, or that we do to distract or numb ourselves from the reality that is presenting itself, is in some manner intemperate. While far more subtle than the more glaring examples that Hill references, this nonetheless has impact on how we are respected, how effective we are and, most importantly, does do damage to our selves.


If temperance can therefore be looked at as sobriety in some form, then that experience of sobriety surely must lead us toward a higher level of awareness of ourselves, of the other, and what is required of us in the situation in which we find ourselves. We certainly are harsher with our judgement of those who are openly addicted to substances and sexual promiscuity. What I am suggesting is that there are more subtle forms of intemperance with the potential to have equal negative impact as the more obvious and easily judged forms. These represent some areas where we may demonstrate a lack of self-control or, on the flip side where we may over-apply self-discipline with the illusion of gaining certainty or control.


Those include, but are not limited to:


· Workaholism - believing that our self-worth is to be found in how much work we can do

· Addiction to self-image, outer appearance and over-exercise

· Busyness, over-scheduling - the activity trap

· Consumerism/Materialism

· Sole focus on earnings, power and title

· Identification with success, growth, acquisition - never-ending 'up and to the right' thinking

· Numbing in any form

· Obsessive gambling, including day-trading, speculative real estate and stock investing

· Getting lost in ‘screen time’ – tv, internet, and social media

· Fantasizing about being someone else or somewhere different from reality

· Becoming obsessed with our past-times, hobbies, or organizations

· Being stuck in our heads, believing that we are no more than our thoughts and feelings


Anything that takes us away from the here and now, as it is presenting itself, threatens to impact the respect others have for us, lessens our effectiveness and impact, and does damage to ourselves. The erosion may be slower and less catastrophic than with the more obvious forms of intemperance, but it is there nonetheless.


So yes, Napoleon Hill is right to warn that Intemperance is a cause of failure in leadership. For most of us it is plain as day that lack of moderation with booze, drugs, food, and sex is not only self-destructive but has negative impact on others around us and our ability to effectively lead. But there is much more to temperance than staying away from common vices; it is more than being seen as morally upright and believing ourselves to be so.


Temperance is about being real, about being human, about being able to truly see and experience ourselves, others, and the world as it is and as we are so that we can see what is actually going on and respond with informed intention.


To be temperate is to be awake, alert, and engaged in leadership and in life with a new level of consciousness. To get there, we first must be willing to accept ourselves, our circumstances, and others as they truly are – warts and all. To see leadership clearly through a different lens, one not clouded by intemperance in any form, is to be truly effective, worthy of respect, and life-giving. For me, this is a much more in-depth view of intemperance, one that goes far beyond the notion that intemperance is to found only in sex and drugs and rock ‘n roll, upon which easy judgement is commonly passed. Aren’t we all in some way ‘guilty’ of intemperance in some form? I know that I am.


Why not end with a quote that I received from the Enneagram Institute, which I believe hints at this notion of temperance and suggests that intemperance can take the form of being by addicted to and blinded by our own personalities:


“As we become more relaxed and aware, we understand that the “normal” way our mind operates is trancelike, unfocused, and chaotic, whereas the quiet mind has qualities of sobriety, clarity, and steadiness. When our mind becomes more still and silent, our intelligence becomes aligned with a greater intelligence that understands our situation objectively and sees exactly what we need to do or not do. Our senses are sharp, colors and sounds are vivid—everything seems eternally fresh and alive.” (The Wisdom of the Enneagram, 360)


Chew on that one for a while…


Until next time!

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