Empowering the Ego
Most leaders I have worked with have their egos in check, but we know they are proud of their accomplishments. Their behavior surrounding their ego is somewhat expected and helps drive their self-confidence. Conversely, when their ego gets in the way of humility, great leaders can fall very quickly. Last week we reviewed the behaviors of leaders who use anger, negativity, clinging to the past, excuses and playing favorites to rule their organization. This week we will study the effects of empowering the ego. To read last’s Part Two, click here https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/75996734
An excessive need to be “me”
Have you ever worked with someone who appears to know it all? To them, admitting they made a mistake is a significant challenge because they want to avoid “losing face”. However, in the eyes of other people, a person who can admit to mistakes and move on from them is more likely to garner respect than someone who blusters and pretends they weren’t responsible. Ultimately, continued refusal to face up to being wrong or causing a problem can take a toll on one’s reputation, relationships, work, or professional life. If a person is not already used to admitting their own mistakes this new skill can liberate them and allow them to move on to better relationships and outcomes.
Get ready to own your errors!
Looking at many leaders, we have to ask ourselves, can his/her ego honestly think, feel, say, and act that way? They may think they can run the company by themselves and do any job in this organization that their team is doing today, but is that reality or just ego. Believing they are good enough to do it all is not necessarily a position of arrogance or superiority. Instead, assuming they can do anything can be representative of a mature ego. The ego needs to mature to build a leaders’ self-confidence. When a leader heals and develops their ego, their career begins to transform, and the way they view the world lifts to a higher octave.
A leader with a mature ego is done pretending they are not good enough, and he/she discovers something shocking. They have grown to the point that they are secure, creative, connected, confident, intuitive, and wise enough to do anything they want to do. They realize if they try and fail at something they do not lose face by admitting their mistake and moving on to the next idea. They only have developed a new habit that says I have the self-confidence to be a leader, make decisions, make mistakes and move on.
Passing the buck
“The most important mark of a leader other leaders can trust is never passing the buck.”
Blaming others for their own mistakes is the antonym of leadership and a mature ego. How often do we face employees who are afraid to admit to their errors for fear of the punishment? I once talked with a CEO who was frustrated because her team was afraid to use their critical thinking skills and make logical decisions. The employee’s lack of self-confidence put a significant burden on the CEO because her employees would ask her advice on every single decision, which wasted a tremendous amount of her time. They feared deciding on their own because her punishments were harsh.
As leaders, we need to evaluate the method in which we communicate the action we asked our employees to take and reframe the communication in our mind to determine if someone less experienced than we are would perceive the conversation in a different way. Real leaders need to take complete ownership when things go wrong. That’s what a leader does even if it means getting fired. If a leader throws someone under the bus, they lose the trust of his/her team making it impossible to lead them.
Refusing to express regret
The inability to take responsibility for our actions and admit we are wrong eliminates our ability to recognize how our actions affect others. Leaders often fear to show regret thinking falsely that a regret is a form of weakness.
Often as leaders, we are required to take actions we don’t necessarily want to make, but it is our job to do what is expected of us. I can think of many occasions over the years when I had to lay employees off due to a change in the business. When I was young and had an immature ego, I was able to complete those lay-offs without any thought to the individual. I realized how important it was to consider the reaction that would come from the employee and allow them to save face as my ego became more mature.
Winning too much
Can you think of any sports professionals that need to win at all costs and in all situations? They go after a win when it matters when it doesn’t matter, and when it’s entirely beside the point. Have you experienced any leaders that will take the opposite view of any discussion point and fight to win it even if they don’t care about the solution? I have difficulty thinking about my college football coach, who was a revered faculty member. I worked in the dining hall during college, and we were not allowed to enter the room when the football team was eating for fear we would overhear strategy and pass it on to the competition. At one point, the milk ran out in the dining area, and no one would go out and fix it for fear of the coach. Since I didn’t care much about football at the time, I took the initiative to go milk the cow. Such meritocracy was just uncalled for but was a regular occurrence during that time.
Now, years later we find out that the assistant coach was molesting boys in the football locker room and the coach knew all about it. Rather than go to the police with the information, the coach chose to force the retirement of the assistant coach and continued to coach his precious team to protect them from the scandal. The evidence is clear that many individuals were aware of what was going on and gave no thought to the young boys who had their lives ruined. Where was the coaches’ ethical values and where were the rest of the coaches and players? Think about Lance Armstrong and Tonya Harding; where were their values when they decided to do whatever they had to do to win.
The challenge is not with the desire to win. We all should want to win and increase the visibility of our business due to our success. The challenge is winning while maintaining our ethical values and validating that our winners are doing so honestly. Leaders have to own the integrity of their business and win but not at any cost.
Telling the world how smart you are
Do you remember the international game show called, “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” This was a show where contestants were asked trivia questions and had the opportunity to call a friend or use the audience’ response to win the million dollars. The show aired for months before the first winner was announced. The first winner, who happened to be an IRS agent, was a true expert on all facts. His answers seemed to come out of nowhere. On the final question, he used his lifeline to call his Dad and rather than ask him a question he said, “ hey Dad I am going to win a million dollars, the answer to the question is x.” Confetti flowed from the ceiling and it was an exciting moment.
We often face individuals who appear to be self-proclaimed experts and talking with them can be extremely irritating. However, let’s be clear that there are true experts in every field. As a leader, we are much better served to show off our listening skills than our expert skills. However, if you really want to be an expert on anything simply google “how to be an expert on anything” and you will come up with over a million hits telling you how to do so.
This week’s’ blog has everything to do with our ego. As leaders, it is important that we build a mature ego. Some individuals take offense to leaders who have egos. However, it is my contention that natural leaders start with an immature ego that allows poor behaviors like winning at all costs, controlling every conversation, acting like they are an expert at everything, or refusing to express regret. If a leader will allow their ego to mature as described in this blog, they will be rewarded with faster and larger success as an executive.
Are you looking forward to Part Four? Next week will review upholding boundaries. Be sure to click follow to be notified of a new posting.
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Reference: “What Got You There Won’t Get You There.” Marshall Goldsmith, pg. 40
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