We all tell ourselves a story about who we are and who we are meant to be. We’ve been doing this since early childhood. That story defines our ego.
Ego is the force that urges us persistently to play the role we have devised for ourselves in the world, in our families, and in our businesses.
Talk about the proverbial double-edged sword …
I am more and more concerned about the role that the persistence of ego plays in bad leadership, on a local and global scale.
Most of us think of ego as something that drives (on the one hand) self-confidence and healthy ambition and (on the other) arrogance, harsh judgment, and all sorts of bad behavior, notably in high-profile people. But in fact we all have powerful egos — and these egos drive our behavior in ways that are difficult to recognize.
Our ego’s voice tends to be the voice we listen to most urgently, even when that voice is speaking falsehoods and giving bad advice. Part of the maturing process is recognizing when the ego wants its way—and to listen to it with an ear attuned to a larger perspective, an ear that is sensitive to what the ego wants but also can filter out that voice when it’s not useful.
Since the ego’s purpose is self-preservation, its job is to resist change, because all change is threatening. But leaders swim in change. This egoic resistance to change can defeat the leader. How?
There is such a thing as a “healthy” ego. We need to have confidence in ourselves and belief in our ability to do great things in this world. But where we go wrong is when we read from the ego’s self-serving script when we should be intelligently, reflectively, and objectively writing a new one – helping ourselves, our families, our organizations, and our global community evolve.
YOUR PATH FORWARD:
- Imagine how you might act into every situation if you were truly able to “check your ego at the door” in service of a higher perspective (for example, our organization’s mission, or the health of the planet).
- Next time you face criticism, listen carefully as your ego throws a temper tantrum. Then give it a time-out to calm down.
- Ask yourself, “What are my sacred cows? In what ways am I holding my organization back because I’m not truly willing to question everything we do without consulting my ego first?”