Ego in LeadershipA few months ago I posted a blog on “What’s Your Me/We Ratio? based on a salient observation made by Donald Cooper in his newsletter about managers’ use of “I” and “my,” rather than “we” and “our.” They seem to live by the American pop music star Madonna’s creed: “everyone is entitled to my opinion.” Me-centric managers aren’t inspiring team builders and don’t create highly engaged teams.

This promoted a stimulating observation and question from reader Donna Coulter-Grace:

“I couldn’t agree more. Leading at a higher level requires courage and humility and I believe neither is created by the ego. In my own experience, I have yet to see a single situation where an ego-focused perspective has resulted in a positive outcome. Ego is an attempt to increase the position of the self and it seems to me that having it as a driving force would, by default, have a detrimental impact on others. I’d be interested in hearing your perspective on whether you see a place for ego in effective leadership.”

— Donna Coulter-Grace

This got me thinking about our layers and types of ego. Unless we’ve reached a highly advanced state of enlightenment, we all have egos.

A healthy ego is often part of healthy pride we have in our work, our team, or our organization. It’s a prime driver of excellence and accomplishment. A leader with a healthy ego feels a deep sense of satisfaction in the accomplishments of the team or organization he or she is leading. Their ego is stroked by coaching, developing, and building others and watching them grow.

A leader with an unhealthy ego is self-centered and feels diminished by the accomplishments of others. He or she must always be center stage in the spotlight and have others defer to his or her authority. He or she wants to own “my people” and works to build dependence and a parent-child relationship. This unhealthy ego drives the leader to seek all credit for team or organization accomplishments and to appoint blame to others for all failures.

English author, John Ruskin, once observed that when we’re wrapped up in ourselves we make a pretty small package. What size of a package are you? If your peers and people reporting to you could anonymously vote on the paragraph that describes you best, which one would win? How do you know? Do you have the courage to find out?

Further Reading:

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