In a recent interview with Business News Daily, John Murphy, author of ‘Zentrepreneur: Get out of the way and lead’, provides a great analysis of the problem with our modern understanding of competition.
BND: Conventional wisdom dictates that competition is good for business, but you encourage leaders to let go of competitiveness. Why is that? What’s the alternative?
J.M.: Competition is often misunderstood and used to divide rather than pull together. For example, it may pit people against one another rather than against a meaningful standard. This creates a never-ending, win-lose perspective and paradigm. Often, we forget there is an alternative.
The more enlightened leader and business competes against waste and ignorance and inefficiency. This cultivates more ownership and accountability. Cooperation is a much more powerful force than competition. At the end of the day, we are one planet, one universe, one community. We are wise to work together toward common interests and goals.
The ego does not see it this way. This “false representation of self” views the world as dualistic and scarce. In order to win, someone has to lose. There is not enough for all. As a result of this belief, we throw things out of balance and create unhealthy anxiety, tension and stress in our lives.
We can already see the kind of divisive version of competition Murphy describes working at the global level, a legacy of our cultural over-emphasis and misunderstanding of the term ‘survival of the fittest’. Whether it’s multi-national corporations or global politics, destructive competition defines the way our leaders do business.
But what would leadership defined by cooperation look like, and how might it help us revise our approach to competition? Murphy’s concept of the zentrepreneur goes some way to describing the benefits of a cooperative outlook, and I’ve shared some of my own thoughts on changing the way we think about leadership in my piece for the Huffington Post. But in order for us to truly understand the benefits of cooperation, we will also need to deepen our understanding of what we mean by competition today, in the hope that we might be able to change it for our global future.
For more on John Murphy and his ideas about the Zentrepreneur, read the full interview here.