Egoless Leadership is a Myth
In a perfect world everyone serves from a heart of love. But, I see ego-centric motivations in my heart. What about you?
Egoless leadership is, at best, an aspiration.
You know you’re an ego-driven leader if:
- The time it takes to create alignment is burdensome and frustrating. People should just do what you say and like it.
- Self-interest drives you to shade the truth and agree when you don’t.
- You feel disregard for the little people. The people who matter are the ones who elevate your status.
- Nagging perceptions that you are smarter, better, and more deserving.
- Your way is the best way. Belief that you know best silences input from teams.
- Perks motivate you. You can’t wait to get your name on a parking space.
- Underlings are kept out of the process and in the dark. They don’t need to know.
Leaders lose when they use and abuse.
Egoless leadership, in my experience, is a myth.
There’s hope if signs of ego become cues to act otherwise.
7 ways to act otherwise:
- Say, “I could be wrong,” out loud and in public.
- Define success in terms of service. Turn toward others when ego drives you to serve yourself.
- Shift from frustration to openness with people.
- Practice speaking truth to power. You may need to start slow if self-protective speech is your pattern.
- Correct and confront for the benefit of others, not because it makes your life easier.
- Find a loyal friend and start talking about the issue of ego. But, remember it’s difficult to see yourself. If you think you don’t have ego issues, you do.
- Do something for someone who can’t pay you back.
Ego serves leaders well when self-interest drives service.
How are you spotting and dealing with ego-driven leadership?
Amen. Great leaders need the confidence to inspire vision and make bold moves and the humility to seek out contrary opinions and put others first. It’s not easy and never handled.
Thanks Karin. There wasn’t room in this post to spend enough time on the good/up side of ego. I’m glad you comment hints at this side of things.
Ego is never “handled.” Love that.
Ego has a positive side. It provides drive. Humility tempers ego to keep the energy constructive..
I like your “I could be wrong..” Even “I was wrong!”
I also believe your #7 in “Ways to Act Otherwise” provides a good self-test…
Thanks Ken. OUCH! “I WAS wrong.” I love it when someone takes an idea to the next level.
Why do I have to remind myself to do things for people who can’t pay me back? hmmm? Could it have something to do with ego? 😉
Thank you, Ken. Too often, ego is confused with arrogance. Arrogance says, “I can’t be wrong.” Ego says, “I know I am right so let’s move forward. I have the strength to adapt if I am wrong.”
Thanks Steven. Interesting difference. Glad you jumped in.
Well said, Ken. Ego equals drive, tenacity, motivation because if we can embrace that ego is individuality, it does not have to be derisive. Ego is ultimately what makes us individuals…that get outa bed in the morning. Even when we say or even believe that we are solely serving others, we are in fact feeding what we think is the right thing to do, and that, is ego driven
I read your blog with much enthusiasm.. Can we connect also on LinkedIn…? If not its ok like this..!
What I find interesting is the idea that you alone are the source of good ideas, the idea of the self made man/woman is what is a myth, we learn from one another and if lucky even the past/present. The root of some ego is the idea that I alone am responsible for all those good ideas I possess, I think a part of giving is to give away those ideas, you really do not own them anyway and they likely were given to you in the first place. Leadership Freak is just another example of that.
Thanks Rich. I find your insights powerful. I guess I should say that you didn’t come up with all by yourself. 🙂
I agree that ego serves leaders when they are self-interested. They can achieve what they want by using their ego. In the organisations, it works well, as they can used their power and authority. Ego makes them to create distance and fear. They use ego to fulfill their interest.
Ego-driven leadership is common in the organisations. It is very easy to spot it. It can be done by interacting with people and asking their views about working culture and leadership. By the reactions of people, one can easily find out whether leaders are really authentic and committed for the people and organisations or something else.
One thing may strongly emerge out of it. Ego-driven leaders are concerned for their power and position. Ego-less leaders are concerned about others. Ego-less leaders have empathy, personal humility and professional will. They know the limitation of people and system. They do best possible things within such limitations.
Thanks Ajay. I find your last paragraph filled with light. You remind me that interest in what’s best for the organization and others is a powerful tempering effect on arrogance and ego.
Thanks Ann. I like your end-of-day questions. In fact, I like them so much, I copied them and posted them beside the light switch to my office so I’ll have the opportunity to consider them each day as I turn the lights off and lock the door. Great leadership guideance.
All of us are called to leadership in different ways and with different groups. The well balanced leader considers this challenge at the end of the day with these questions: “What did I do today that enabled me to become my better self? .What did I do that enabled others to be their better selves?” This can become a win-win situation when we serve the interests of others.
Thanks Ann. What great questions! What did I do today that enabled me to become my better self?” … Love that.
Good article – what happens when its all EGO driven leaders in a team?
Thanks Ryan. Great question. Probably there will be lots of fighting and the person with the biggest ego will have to win, sulk, walk away, or sabotage everyone else.
You got me thinking about what ego-collisions look like.
Ego. You can’t lead with it and you can’t lead without it. First must learn balance Daniel Son…
Thanks Dustin. Nicely said! Your insight keeps the door open for ongoing conversation.
Ego isn’t something we can separate from the rest of our being. We all have it . . . I feel it’s an important part of us. I’ve found it helps to be conscious of the presence of my ego in how I react to situations, how I make decisions, and how I respond to people. Ego plays an important role. The key for me is in making sure its role is balanced with the rest of my actions.
Great post Dan! This one nailed it in my opinion. I’ve noticed that great leaders tend to have large egos that they are very aware of and keep in check.
Recognizing that we all have an ego (it really is a part of the human condition) and then intercepting that default behaviour is great advice.
Your third tip (shift from frustration to openness) is one I practice regularly. Explaining how I’m feeling, why and calling out my own assumptions are a great way to get a productive dialogue going.
Great one, Dan. I once had a boss that said the best thing about me was that I had no ego. I reminded him that I come from a country where we are known to be polite, helpful and kind, but where we are also known for dropping our gloves and handing out a few bare-fisted punches if necessary…. 🙂 Another good way for a leader to keep his/her ego in check is to credit the team for success, shield them from blame when goals aren’t reached. Stay safe, Always Care, Paul
Ego is defined as sense of self importance… Christ was a leader without an ego and there are many more that you’ll never know because recognition of self is not their drive; their motivation is the recognition of the individual they’ve influenced. At the end of my life I will not say ‘Look, see what I did,’ you will know by the number in attendance to my funeral.