Using his own early-life experiences, Alfred Adler was pivotal in developing the inferiority complex concept. While controversial during his career, many of Adler’s psychological theories have been absorbed into modern psychology without credit to Adler himself. Psychohistorian Henri F. Ellenberger writes “It would not be easy to find another author from which so much has been borrowed on all sides without the appropriate acknowledgement.” In a survey conducted in 2002, Adler was recognized as one of the top 100 psychologists of the 20th century.
There are numerous people around you (including those on your senior leadership team) who have had to deal with emotional turmoil that almost no one sees. The fact is that we hide a great deal of our real selves behind personality and posturing. So a good deal of what we project to the world is merely camouflage to hide emotional wounds, disappointments and hollowed out dreams that can haunt us interminably. We all struggle at times– every last one of us.
In Frank Bruni’s words, a contributor to the New York Times, “I wonder how we would look at others if all of us were walking around with sandwich boards listing what we have endured, what we have survived and what we have overcome.”
We still have businesses and organizations to run. And we still have difficult decisions to make. However, as we all know, empathy is a key leadership quality that is sometimes in rather short supply. That said, just perhaps our empathy for team members might be a little stronger if we knew the real burdens they carry.
Born exactly 152 years ago this month, Adler struggled with feelings of inferiority which were rooted squarely around his fear of dying. He watched his younger brother pass away (when Adler was 3 years old) and got run over in the streets of Vienna twice! And catching pneumonia at age 4 that almost killed him did not help!
Perform better! With Empathy!