Don’t Let Your Ego Undermine Your Leadership

By Linda FIsher Thornton

Ego has a way of undoing even our best intentions as leaders. We have to be aware of our ego and manage it to avoid getting off track. In a world that requires rapid adaptation to changing events and circumstances, ego tries to maintain the status quo and works against our ability to pivot in response to change. Think of the adaptable leader as piloting a boat, able to turn at a moment’s notice as the situation warrants it. The ego-driven leader, in contrast, is living in a fortress with a moat around it, protecting status and the status quo at all cost. The fortress can’t move, can’t pivot, can’t adapt to changing circumstances.

“The best leaders never get so attached to the idea of themselves as expert or decision-maker that they fail to look to others.”

Kristin Hendrix, Why ego can be a leader’s greatest strength and their downfall, LeadershipVitae.com

Looking out from an “ego fortress” tends to make leaders focus on protecting their realm and keeping intruders out rather than supporting other people. The problem with that is that leadership is all about what we do for others, not protecting our turf, which actively interferes with the kind of openness and learning mindset that is needed for good leadership.

Worse, ego leaves us with a narrow vision of our role and makes us vulnerable to negative outside influences. Others might offer to help us “reinforce our fortress” and protect our interests, and those ideas are quite attractive from the ego’s perspective.

“Ego makes us susceptible to manipulation; it narrows our field of vision; and it corrupts our behavior, often causing us to act against our values.”

Jennifer Woo, CEO and chair of The Lane Crawford Joyce Group quoted in Ego is the Enemy of Good Leadership, Harvard Business Review

The nimble leader will outperform the ego-driven leader in the long run by quickly adapting to change. Leaders making choices from an ego fortress can do a lot of damage to people, groups and organizations along the way. Responsible leaders know the risks and stay in charge of their egos instead of letting their egos be in charge of them.

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