There is a little 3-letter word that names one of the biggest obstacles standing in the way of progress for many leaders and businesses. This little word is E-G-O. Ego is simply a person’s sense of self-importance.
The problem is, when ego does not stay in-check and becomes overgrown, we become self-serving. We convince ourselves that we know what is best for our staff and for our customer. We no longer have empathy, which is essential if we are going to understand our staff and our client/customers.
Jim Collins, in his book Good to Great, tells a story that illustrates the problem with self-serving leaders. Collins says that when things are going well for self-serving leaders, they will look in the mirror, beat their chests, and tell themselves how good they are. When things go wrong, they look out the window and blame everyone else. On the other hand, when things go well for great leaders, they look out the window and give everyone else the credit. When things go wrong, these serving leaders look in the mirror and ask themselves, “What could I have done differently?” That requires real humility.
When things go wrong, these serving leaders look in the mirror and ask themselves, “What could I have done differently?”
Here are some things that our ego does that holds us back.
#1 – Ego tells me I don’t need to listen to anyone else.
The solution: Ask for input from those around you – but be sure that these people are truth tellers, people that know you well.
#2 – Ego tells me I already know the solution/answer. This is the one thing that keeps us ignorant of what our customers, clients and staff members really want/need. It takes up any space that might be occupied by empathy.
The solution: Listen first and then make the decision.
#3 – Ego tells me that I am the leader, therefore I must always be visible and out front.
The solution: Instead of facilitating every meeting, ask staff members to take a turn facilitating. You could be amazed at what you learn.
#4 – Ego does not tell me the impact I have on others. Self-serving leaders are blind to the impact their actions have on others, shifting priorities, sometimes daily. Actions like this discourage employees from taking ownership and it prevents the employees from growing on the job – they become less engaged in their work and it becomes a morale killer. In turn, it also prevents the company from growing.
The solution: Be aware of the impact you have on others – develop a high level of emotional intelligence.
In today’s world, it takes the collective effort and input of everyone to be successful. Learn to recognize when your ego is driving your business and put it in its place.