We have all, at some point in our lives, had the unfortunate experience of working with a boss who has a big ego. About five years ago I worked on a project with a chief operating officer of a global company and she was totally in love with her ego.
She consistently told me how great she was. I remember the stories now, ranging from her exceptional performance at school, to becoming a ‘big player’ in the business world. According to her, she had done it all… perfectly… every time.
The thing is, she is not the only one… If we are honest, finding a manager or leader with a big ego is not a rare occurrence. In fact you can probably think of a leader in your life who has a massive ego. Or even worse… maybe, just maybe, someone reading this would think of you?
“Our ego hinders our ability to influence more than anything else under our control. Ego is the biggest reason leaders fail.”
When a leader’s ego grows to the point were they believe they always have the right answer… a leader will fail.
When a leader’s opinion matters more than their follower’s opinions… a leader will fail.
When a leader stops listening and stop learning… a leader will fail.
When a leader surrounds themselves with people who continually confirm and conform to their will and pander to their self-worth… a leader will fail.
Ego is the mortal wound of leadership. It distracts you from the foundational truth of leadership… The best leaders in the world, bring out the best in other people.
How can we ensure our ego doesn’t get in the way of being a great leader?
Ego isn’t a real thing. It is just an idea. An idea of who we think we are and who we believe we are.
This idea tells us:
“Who I am is what I have.”
“Who I am is what I have done.”
“Who I am is what other people think of me.”
“Who I am is how much stuff I own and how much that stuff is worth.”
An ego, in the simplest of terms, believes that it is separate from everything else and in competition with everything else.
As leaders we need to be aware of our own ego and evolve it, so we become great leaders that serve our followers.
The three levels of ego evolution
Dr. Wayne Dyre, explained that there are three stages of ego evolution in adulthood and I think these have clear links to leadership.
This is based on “What you look like, is what you are”. It is simply a narcissistic view on life. It is about looking good, rather than doing good.
You will see this in leaders that will attempt to take the credit for other peoples’ ideas and work, in order for them to be seen in a positive light. You will hear these type of leaders continually discredit other people too. This is to make others look bad, in order to elevate their own status.
It is clear that possessing this type of ego will detrimentally effect your leadership. It will erode trust, loyalty, respect and authenticity. All of which, I hope you agree, are critical to leadership.
In my experience, this is the most common version of ego you will find in leaders. This is all about being the best. It is about competing, fighting and being the number one.
In moderation, this can be beneficial to leadership. But when it grows into a self-fulfilling, ever growing and unstoppable ego, then it becomes disastrous.
Believing you are always right and surrounding yourself with only people who say you are right, is frighteningly bad leadership.
Logically, how can any one person be smarter, better and more intelligent than a whole team of people? The simple answer is they can’t. Yet with a warrior ego, a leader won’t listen to others’ opinions. They will lose engagement, value and commitment from their teams.
This evolves from ‘What can I get’ that you find in the first two stages, to a ‘How can I serve?’ focus.
At this stage a leader understands that they are connected to their teams and followers. Their success is the growth and development of their people.
As a servant, a leader will gain: Trust, loyalty, respect, authenticity, engagement, value and commitment from their followers.
They will also instantly tap into the collective mind-power and ideas of the whole team, which the Statesman leader, understands is far greater than their own individual intelligence.
Why does leadership fail?
An Athletic or Warrior ego is the most common reason why leaders fail.
What level of ego evolution do you live and work at?
Are you in it to look good? Are you in it to be the number one, have lots of power and make all the decisions?
Or are you in it to serve those around you? To create the environment for people to flourish and grow?
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