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Why Big Egos are Toxic to Leadership

I’m reading a fascinating book called Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday. While we all know the human psyche is equipped with an ego, not all of us keep our own ego in check.

The ego is that part of our identity that allows us to be self-aware. This self-awareness is supposed to help us find a balance between our base, primal urges and our more evolved moral and idealistic standards. In a perfect world, our ego would help us to NOT become an overbearing egomaniac. Oh the irony.

I like holiday’s definition of ego:

“The ego we see most commonly goes by a more casual definition: an unhealthy belief in our own importance. Arrogance. Self-centered ambition… It’s that petulant child inside every person, the one that chooses getting his or her way over anything or anyone else. The need to be better than, more than, recognized for, far past any reasonable utility — that’s ego. It’s the sense of superiority and certainty that exceeds the bounds of confidence and talent.”

I don’t know about you, but this description fits A LOT of leaders I’ve had the displeasure of working with/under. Egomaniacs tend to be out of touch with reality, feel entitled, create unrealistic expectations, and are almost addicted to outside validation. They’re so busy taking care of themselves they don’t have much time to lead!

Unpacking Leadership EGO

Okay, linguistically-speaking, yes, there is an “I” in the word leadership, but there shouldn’t be. How does this big ol’ I, I, I, me, me, me attitude even show up? I think so many people strive to climb that ladder and become an important title (CEO, President, Chairwoman.) that they lose all sight to what the point was for their climb.

Have you ever taken the time to unpack your leadership EGO?

Some very good, qualified and caring individuals can start out with the best of leadership intentions and yet STILL end up with an ego the size of Texas. We’re human, and even when we are trying to do good, we can often screw things up.

That’s why it’s important to check yourself and your ego every once in a while. To unpack your leadership EGO, ask yourself the following questions (and BE HONEST!!):

1. How does your EGO show up in your role?

2. How would you rate your level of humility on a scale of 1-10?

3. Do you feel you have room to grow as a leader?

4. How would your employees rate your ability to listen and collaborate?

5. Would your employees say you are able to be vulnerable?

6. Do you seek accolades and want everyone to know your results?

7. Do people see you the same way you see yourself?

8. Do you bully others into doing things the way you want?

9. Do you care about your employees?

10. Are you open to learning?

11. How do you empower others?

12. Do others understand your Why?

13. Are other inspired by your Why?

Beyond asking yourself questions, invite team members to give you feedback on your leaderships skills. A real leader wants to hear from the people they are leading.

Leaders aren’t perfect. The point of leadership isn’t about inspiring others to see your greatness, it’s about inspiring greatness in others.

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