How does ego affect leadership?

Everyone has an ego. It is our sense of self-importance and self-worth. We all need a healthy ego to function well in supporting our team. But when our ego gets too big, it can become a problem.

Team sitting around table, man sitting in the middle pointing to the group with his pen

What is the impact of ego on leadership?

If you're able to keep your ego in check, it can give you the confidence you need to make tough decisions and stand up for what you believe in. A healthy ego can also help you stay calm and level-headed in challenging situations.

On the other hand, if you let your ego run wild, it can lead to negative consequences. For example, you might start making impulsive decisions without considering the input of others. You might also become so focused on your success that you're unable to see the bigger picture or empathize with those you're supposed to be leading.

In short, ego can be either a helpful or harmful tool for leaders. It all depends on how well you're able to control it.

How to become aware of ego?

Ego can be tricky to spot in ourselves because it's often subconscious. A good way to become more aware of your ego is to pay attention to your thoughts and emotions when you're in a leadership role. If you find yourself thinking about one or multiple of the following phrases, it might be a sign that your ego is getting in the way:

  • 'I'm the only one who can do this'
  • 'This is my idea, and we're going to do it my way'
  • 'I'm not interested in what other people think'
  • 'I don't need anyone's help'
  • 'If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself'
  • 'I'm important because I'm needed'
  • 'I have to make decisions without showing any doubt or hesitation'
  • 'Others won't respect me if I own up to making a mistake'

These are all phrases that reveal an unhealthy ego. If you find yourself thinking or saying them often, it's a sign that you need to reflect on how your ego is impacting your leadership style.

Ultimately, you'll need to seek feedback from others to truly learn more about what role your ego has been playing in your role as a leader. Ask trusted friends or colleagues for honest feedback about your leadership style.

How to control your ego?

If you find that your ego is starting to get the best of you, there are a few things you can do to get it back under control.

1. Acknowledge your ego

The first step is acknowledging that you have an ego. This might seem obvious, but it's an important step nonetheless. Once you're aware of your ego, you can start paying attention to the role it's playing in your professional work life. Respect your ego enough to understand how it's serving you.

2. Take time to reflect

Reflect on your behaviour and see where you might need to make adjustments. Are there certain situations that bring out the worst in you? Can you take a step back and see the situation from another perspective? If you catch yourself feeling superior to others or getting defensive when criticized, those are red flags that your ego might be at work.

3. Don't compare yourself to others

As they say, comparison is the thief of joy. Constantly comparing yourself to others will only breed feelings of insecurity and inadequacy. Instead, focus on your own journey and what you can do to become the best version of yourself.

4. Never stop learning

Stay humble and open-minded by continuously learning and growing. Be curious and learn from those around you, even if they might be junior to you. The more you know, the more you'll realize how much there is still to learn.

5. Accept imperfection

Remember that no one is perfect and that everyone has something to contribute. Avoid putting yourself above others or talking down to them.

6. Recognize the things that make you feel grateful

Once in a while, take a few minutes to list down things you're grateful for. This can help shift your focus from yourself to the things and people around you.

7. Pay attention to the need of others

Try to focus on other's needs instead of your own. When you're in a leadership role, it's important to think about what's best for the team or organization as a whole. This means making decisions that might not always benefit you personally, but will help the group succeed.

8. Let go of the need to always be right

If you make a mistake, own up to it and learn from it. It's okay to be wrong sometimes. What's important is that you're able to learn from your mistakes and become a better leader as a result.

Things to take-away

  • The ego can have a negative impact on leadership if it's not kept in check.
  • Those with healthy egos are aware of their own strengths and weaknesses and are able to control their egos in order to maintain healthy relationships with those around them. I
  • f you find that your ego is starting to get the best of you, there are a few things you can do to get it back under control. It's a process that requires time and effort. But if you're willing to put in the work, you'll be a better leader for it.

About me

Hi, I’m Lilian. I’m currently the head of a design team in a digital agency in Amsterdam and love to write about leadership and share tips based on my experience over the past couple of years.

Lead by design

I decided to start this blog as a way to share my thoughts on leadership. I’m passionate about helping others learn more about leadership and how to be a good leader, so I hope this blog will be helpful to those who are looking for tips and advice on leadership.

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