We all have an ego. What an ego is, can be confusing. One way to think about ego is that it is the part of ourselves we allow others to see. It’s our public face or what we share publically after mixing our raw impulses with our sense of what is right and proper. For example, you might feel like screaming at someone in anger but hold back from because you judge that would be wrong and instead, give the person a “stern talking to.”
As people get to know us and observe us reacting to situations, they start to think of us in terms of our ego. If we seem to put our needs ahead of everyone else, we are labeled as having a “big ego.” On the other hand, if we consider the needs of others as, at a minimum, equally important as our own, we are not thought as egocentric or egotistical. In other words, if we are not overwhelmed by our own impulses and include the needs of others in our evaluation of what we should do that is right and proper, we avoid appearing egotistical.
With that background, we can turn to the three main ways ego can get in the way when you are a leader.
Way one: giving in to the need to be important. This can appear as showing off or trying to be the “smartest guy in the room,” or the one with all the answers. This need gets in the way of others expressing themselves. If you find yourself always offering the solutions or having to have the last word, consider how your ego may be driving you and how it might be interfering with others offering ideas. Temper your ego to welcome the diversity of ideas that come in its absence.
Way two: giving in to the need to control others so mistakes won’t lead to criticism of you. This need leads to micromanaging others. If you find yourself trying to control others for fear of their making mistakes or doing something “wrong” be wary. If you find yourself always blaming others when things go wrong, definitely be wary–your ego is at work. Mistakes happen and having too much ego in the work always makes them worse and undermines the lessons to be learned. Temper your ego to learn as much as you can from mistakes.
Way three: giving into the tendency to personalize feedback and make it about you being beyond criticism. Everyone can get better. Constructive criticism can help everyone but not if ego gets in the way while protecting one’s sense that one is above criticism. The impulse, in this case, is usually fear of disapproval or rejection. The reduced insistence on what is right and proper is seeing oneself as benefiting from criticism on the path to improvement. Temper your ego to benefit from criticism–especially when it is delivered from a constructive stance.
As always, we are ready to discuss these ideas with you and to answer any questions you may have about them. No doubt they are imperfect and can be improved. Hopefully, they also provide you with some insight into how you might improve your leadership behaviors.
“Whenever I climb I am followed by a dog called ‘Ego’.” ― Friedrich Nietzsche
“Avoid having your ego so close to your position that when your position falls, your ego goes with it.” ― Colin Powell
“I’ve got no ego; I just like to have thousands of people write to me and tell me how wonderful I am.” ― Jim Beaver
Friedrich Nietzsche. (n.d.). BrainyQuote.com. Retrieved June 29, 2017, from BrainyQuote.com Web site: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/f/friedrichn103584.html
Colin Powell. (n.d.). BrainyQuote.com. Retrieved June 29, 2017, from BrainyQuote.com Web site: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/c/colinpowel138121.html
Jim Beaver. (n.d.). BrainyQuote.com. Retrieved June 29, 2017, from BrainyQuote.com Web site: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/j/jimbeaver562275.html