Ego is The Mortal Wound in Your Leadership

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.”

Michael McKinney

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.

The Athletic.

23119634This 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.

The Warrior

Guild-Wars-2-WarriorIn 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.

The Statesman

This evolves from ‘What can I get’ that you find in the first two stages, to a ‘How can I serve?’ focus.

What-is-servant-leadership-ghandi-help-others-1024x576At 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?

Two Simple Steps That Will Help You Build Strong Relationships… Today.

This is a video I have created, about how to create deep and meaningful relationships with those around you. Being able to connect quickly and authentically is such a powerful life skill and has massive benefits to you and the world around you.

These three strategies have literally changed my life, by vastly improving the relationships I have at work, at home and socially.

Hopefully, this advice can help you:

How To Win Hearts And Minds

Imagine if you had the tactics to connect successfully with all of those around you. To win over their hearts and minds.

It is not as easy as it would seem. I recently worked in collaboration with a CEO of a well-know company, he was struggling with motivating and engaging his team. This gentleman was an extremely talented and intelligent person, with an academic history that most people only dream of. Yet his wider team, although they understood his goals clearly, were lethargic and disengaged.

Looking from the outside, the problem was simple. He was a logical, evidence-driven communicator. This was the style of communication he naturally preferred and therefore that is how he communicated. In effect, he won the minds of his people, but not their hearts.

I am the opposite in the the way I communicate, my natural preference is to communicate to the heart, with passion and enthusiasm.

However to be an effective leader, we need the skills to communicate in a compelling manner to both the head and heart of our followers. We need the ability to adapt our style dependant on our audience and the subject matter.

The chances are you will, like me and the CEO, have a preference on how you like to communicate. If so, then the ability to consciously identify what style to use in each situation will be invaluable in improving your leadership.


Winning Hearts:

This is all about connecting with people emotionally and is particularly effective when:

  • Building interest on a new idea or concept
  • Gaining support for a decision that has already been made (ie launching an initiative that has been signed off)
  • Raising passions and performance on a current way of working
  • Leading a team that is struggling and low on moral

There are many ways to win hearts – my personal favourite is when the communication includes vivid descriptions, so people can visualise. Also the use of metaphors and stories is extremely powerful, as people can empathise, connect and understand in a simple and visceral manner.

Winning Minds:

This is about connecting with people in a logical, well-articulated manner, with fantastic positioning and analysis. The best times to utilise this communication style are:

  • When trying to persuade anyone of anything! At some point in the discussion a logical argument will be required.
  • Persuading a change in direction on something already decided
  • Advocating one decision over another
  • Addressing highly complex or a technical set of problems

When winning minds it is imperative that the message has been carefully constructed. Things to consider would be; describing the situation, why the subject needs attention, the common ground for all parties concerned, proof and the benefits.

Putting it together:

The truth of the matter is that most situations require communication to both hearts and minds. Imagine if you had the tactics to connect successfully with all of those around you. Hopefully this post has given you some food for thought on the tactics you can use.