Will your ego kill your career?

EgoThis may be good news or bad news, depending on who you are: The day of the aggressive know-it-all who steamrolls over colleagues is drawing to a close. In the future, success will belong to those who can quiet their egos, collaborate, and empathize with others.

Why are inflated egos going out of vogue? Simply put, it’s because technology advancements are set to drive massive unemployment—researchers from Oxford University predict that 47 percent of all jobs in the United States may be lost to smart robots over the next five to fifteen years—and to redefine “smart” and “successful.”

“After the machines take over, any remaining jobs still available for humans will be those requiring critical, innovative, and creative thinking as well as high emotional engagement with customers, patients, or clients,” says Ed Hess, co-­author along with Katherine Ludwig of Humility Is the New Smart: Rethinking Human Excellence in the Smart Machine Age.

Obviously, this criteria is starkly different from our culture’s current markers of success. In the automated age, the authors say humility will be the golden ticket to getting a job. And by humility they don’t mean meekness, submissiveness, or thinking less of oneself.

In a nutshell, say the authors, what humility really means is being able to recognize one’s own weaknesses, mistakes and knowledge gaps; being open to new ideas; and being able to “forget the self” and appreciate what other people and things contribute to the world.

According to Ludwig and Hess, living by this definition of humility—a vital component of what they call “NewSmart”—opens our hearts to others in a way that enables the empathy, compassion and trust necessary for effective teamwork and collaboration.

Old and new cultural ways