How to Manage Your Ego

A strong ego may help you win in business, but too much can hurt your leadership effectiveness.

I think you’ll agree with me: the hardest side of business to master is the human component. Entire industries are now dedicated to providing leadership training and development to organizations challenged by the behavior of their “human capital.”

Ultimately, however, it’s up to each of us to manage our egos: conversation by conversation, project by project, meeting by meeting. We’ve all got them, some of us have very good ones, strongly contributing to our competitive drives. It’s part of what makes us successful.

The key is knowing when to reign it in, when NOT use it so forcefully. In that way, ego is like a glass of fine wine: a little opens up the appetite and conversations, too much destroys them altogether.

Your coworkers and team members are usually aware — much earlier than you’ll ever figure out — that your ego has become overinflated. Here are four telltale signs, from authors David Marcum and Steven Smith, in egonomics: what Makes Ego Our Greatest Asset (or Most Expensive Liability), Fireside, 2007.

  1. You find yourself being defensive.
  2. You continually compare yourself to others.
  3. You seek acceptance to justify your ego needs.
  4. You make a point of showcasing your brilliance.

High-performing individuals have strong competitive drives. But what happens when competitiveness is reinforced by success? Our ego says, “Right on! That worked. I’ll continue using my competitiveness and even kick it up a notch.”

Your ego may be in control if you experience the following:

  • Viewing a colleague as a rival and planning how to “beat” him/her
  • Taking it personally when someone disagrees with your ideas
  • Disagreeing with someone simply because you didn’t come up with the idea first
  • Prematurely criticizing the competition’s strategies without considering their value
  • Compulsively following a competitor’s lead, just to “keep up with the Joneses”
  • Comparing others’ external environments to your own (signs of status or wealth, without regard for inner values)

What about you, do you recognize yourself doing any of these things, just a little? They may be extreme examples, or maybe not. The first step towards managing ego is to become aware of the ways you feed it.

It’s worth thinking about, no?

This entry was posted in career, coaching, leadership, relationships and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

One Comment