Ambition And Leadership

Ambition And Leadership

There is a widespread belief that ambition is a good motive force for achievement, that without ambition, a person becomes inert and placid. Consequently, how can we conceive a leader without ambition?

The dictionary meaning of the word ambition is “aspiration for success or advancement”. It is true that ambition is a powerful motivator. People eager for personal success and advancement are dynamic and produce very good short-term results. However, it is those, who are driven by ambition for an ideal or a vision higher than themselves, who really achieve enduring results.

Four hundred years ago, Francis Bacon, the great English analyst of human nature, wrote about ambitious men. The classic words, in which he described an ambitious person is as true today as they were then. He observes (the meanings of some of the old words are given here): Ambition is like biliousness, which is a humour (disposition) that makes the men active, earnest, full of alacrity, and stirring, if it not be stopped. But, if it is stopped, and cannot have his way, it becomes burnt up, and thereby malign and poisonous. So, ambitious men, if they find the way open for their rising, and still get forward, they are rather busy than dangerous; but, if they are checked for their desires, they become secretly discontent, and look upon men and matters, with an evil eye; and are best pleased when things go backwards; which is the worst property, in a servant of a prince or the state.

Having explained the nature of ambitious men, Francis Bacon concludes that ultimately, the greatest good is done by those, who are “more sensible of duty than of rising. “In other words, by those, who can rise above their self-interest. However, it is not easy for human beings to break away from the pull of “I, me, and mine”. Consequently, nations, societies, and organizations that value leadership use various techniques to create environments, in which leaders can rise above their self-interest and sublimate their personal ambitions (which are quite natural in a person) to higher ideals.

Neville Frederiks, from Sydney narrated his personal experience in support of what Francis Bacon has said above. “I flogged all my land to raise resources for going into the construction business. I and my wife employed one secretary to start the work. Soon, the business boomed. The number of employees rose to 320. I picked the most dynamic go-getters for promotions in the company. Then came a slump. It was precisely the dynamic guys, who caused me the greatest damage

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