Humans necessarily have to be ambitious. It is the higher most potent motivator for achieving results, regardless of the subject or profession one is engaged in. The presence of anyone with ambition does not have to ring alarm bells; it is not a negative sentiment to possess. The only proviso is, ambition if it is based or arises out of envy for another colleague’s exceptional performance, is a sure recipe for consuming oneself in the slippery mire of jealousy. Just as man is known by the company, he/she keeps, similarly an individual is known by the quality of his/her ambitions.
Ambition is about enthusiastic aspirations. The adage, no craving, never having or nothing seek, nothing find, is so true. Since ambitious attitude is contagious, for all aspirants it is critical, so use the doctrine of proximity, and at first available opportunity seek to associate with those possessed of ambitious trait, with track record of success. Such individuals or managers must measure up to your own definition of success; it is only then, that your guns of ambition will go blazing. Failure to find that spark of ambition amongst some of my younger colleagues; I talk them into accepting that quitting of desires and ambitions is open invitation to professional death.
Ambition must propel an individual to seek excellence in their respective pursuits. This obviously requires toil and hard work. Ambition, sans diligence of preparation, through focused study and work, is meaningless. It isn’t the best thing to happen, that one is enriched by ambition but poor by condition. For a high leap, a long run is required. In the game of cricket, to bowl fast, most bowlers have a long run up. Shoaib Akhtar, the fearsome bowler, had the most ridiculously long run up to the crease, but at the end, what was delivered to the batsman, wasn’t short of a thunderbolt.
While possession of ambition is important, it must also be kept in reins. Left to itself it can run amok in the lives of colleagues around. The negatives attending to ambition must first be recognised and then checked for intention into one’s personality; the negatives have all the potentials to transform into personality characteristics and traits. Desires have no rest. Ambition loses many a manager. The ant has wings developed to her hurt. Let the drive of ambition not make you lose your noble soul. Negatively inclined ambitious attitude leads to pugnacious, belligerent and bellicose behaviour. No colleagues would want to work with such supervisors. From Aesop’s fables, “Never soar afloat on an enemy’s piniors”.
The presence of harnessed ambition is a necessary catalyst for ensuring good performance. The lack of talent in a team is anathema for the leader. There are in an organisation many workers who merely amble along the path of life; wandering and meandering. In “Reflections and Maxims” by Vauvenargues, it is beautifully stated, “The greatest evil which fortune can inflict on men is to endow them with small talents and great ambition”. The drive towards having ambition must not be based on any feeling of inferiority. An organisation that does not zealously promote ambitious attitude would render and lead to the presence of an apathetic workforce; down and demoralised.
Ambition, when deployed and used positively can actually be the “mother of virtues”. It is the seed for acquisition of recognition. Managed ambitions allow accession to the highest echelons of the corporate ladder. However, those who know they can’t harness it, and fear their own rise and fall, should in the first place, never attempt to rise. It is best to recall often that precipices exist only at heights; and higher the summit, the longest is the fall. Sad, that oaks too fall. It is significant to bear in mind that the highest branch is not the safest roost; neither is the highest position on the corporate ladder. In fact, the higher it is , the harder is the fall.
There are in every organisation, people who come to do a job and look forward to getting paid for it. They have no ambitions. Some of them, I have witnessed carry a view that it is best to be in the tail position of a lion, then be head of dogs, wolves and jackals! With some destination in mind, they prefer to ride a donkey than a horse, who may keep throwing them away from his back, for absence of ambition. They still don’t take offence to the animal.
Many occasions, we may come across a deceitful and conceited manager; who will make appear himself as ambitious; however, the blanket of conceit and deceit, only enshrouds their real character, after also unbeknownst, to themselves- this behaviour only fortifies all their inconsistencies.
Ambition without purpose, endeavour and vision is no sign of leadership. Determined managers do not allow interference of any sorts in their focused attitude. However, it is an accepted truth that no ambitious manager can be devoid of at least a small tinge of narcissism. They love themselves. And this attitude invigorates and charges them with energy to perform. The presence of humility, on the contrary is also not representative of lack of ambition. Managers and leaders with consuming zeal most often end up doing something better to make the difference. Such recognise that staying in the valley, will never give them the view of the horizon, that can be had from atop the hill.
It is also a very pre-dominant characteristic of ambitious managers, who would be appreciative of all those who assist him in his drive; inspiring and motivational, but at other moment, they can be cruel, ruthless, with floods of invectives they can hurl at the same time. Goodness can make great managers, but conversely a great manager does not necessarily become good.
An ambitious manager is one, who knows, recognises and practices, that the surest way to being happy is to seek happiness for others.
The writer is a senior banker and freelance contributor