Ego and Self-Awareness: Beware of the Self
First things first...ITS ALL ABOUT YOU!
Do not forget—IT IS ALL ABOUT YOU!.....and for every other person it is all about them as well. To make everything about yourself is the default setting of every human being. Even when you think you are not making it about you…you are. Being able to understand and relate to others will not happen until you know people ONLY see the world through the narrow corridor of their own experiences. Again, people ONLY see the world through the narrow corridor of their own experiences. Even when empathizing with those we love and cherish the most, we only see their happiness or pain as it relates to our joy or sorrow. Therefore, continually striving to view ourselves truthfully and objectively is essential. When we lose objectivity and are unable to turn a clear mirror on ourselves, we lose reliable sensitivities and begin to drift further from reality. If you refuse to see your contribution to negative encounters with others, it is easy to place blame somewhere else, inevitably leading to a “the-whole-world-is-out-to-get-me” narrative. In reality, most people you encounter are merely trying to survive you so as to return to their own unique version of reality.
The ego is a manifestation of our perception of how we believe the rest of the world sees us…or, more specifically, how we want the rest of the world to see us. Therefore, exploring the presence and management of the ego is paramount. After conquering the ego, a leader can strive to relate, navigate, and manage the egos of constituents. An unchecked ego can distort perspective and misalign values. According to Jennifer Woo, CEO of Asia’s most successful luxury retailer, “managing [the] ego’s craving for fortune, fame, and influence is the prime responsibility of any leader” (Hougaard & Carter, 2018).
What is the Ego?
Everyone on earth has an ego. The ego is an emotional investment, a set of values, or an image either negative or positive, a byproduct of emotions and experiences, and the desire for future outcomes. No perception is off-limits when it comes to building an ego. Some want others to see them as friendly, strong, or intelligent. Some individuals want to be feared and disliked by their peers. Regardless of the route, the destination is the same, carefully manicured images. Many have had a boss incapable feeling disliked and therefore does not stick up for his/her employees or allows the department to take on extra responsibilities that cannot be managed. Conversely, an individual may build an ego on the image of fortune and importance and drain their savings and all available credit to maintain the image of power and wealth. Pros and cons are present in both examples, but if left unmanaged, either of these types of egos will narrow a person’s field of vision and consequently corrupt behavior (Hougaard & Carter, 2018).
The Consequences of an Unchecked Ego.
An unchecked ego is an enemy of successful leadership as it is the manifestation of deeply rooted ideologies about ourselves. Many topics discussed thus far showcase a recurring trend that migrates back to the individual. Do not forget! Every individual is equipped with a gravitational field, pulling experiences, concepts, and ideologies inward, shaping and molding each to fit personal perspectives. When we think we are considerate of others, we are only able to do so in relation to ourselves. In that sense, we are all self-centered. What sets excellent leadership apart from others is how inherent self-centeredness (the ego) is managed, continuously pulling in, while simultaneously being pulled into orbit with others. Individuals moving up in rank become more at risk for developing over-inflated egos. The bigger the ego, the bigger the insulated bubble of ego-fueled distance. Insular atmospheres surrounding high ranking individuals are the result of over accommodating subordinates being excessively attentive, toxically agreeable, and laughing at every un-laughable joke (Hougaard & Carter, 2018).
A leader with an insular view of him/herself violates the essence of good leadership as this individual is not granted the opportunity to view themselves objectively. Connection to the truth gradually erodes each time he/she avoids accountability for something said or done. As an insular and egotistical leader moves further from reality, they also move further from their subordinates both physically and emotionally. High-level executives often move to higher floors or secluded corner offices guarded by at least one assistant. Physical distance equals emotional distance. Soon, decisions will be made without the consideration of those affected, tensions will rise, and trust will be lost, taking with it the gratification of effective and successful leadership.
What Can You Do?
Many organizations have recognized the value of keeping all members of the organization close and settled in reality. Google, Whole Foods, and Chick-fil-a take pride in stretching lateral power structures that blend and blurry the lines of authority. Google allows maximum autonomy amongst its employees. Endowing employees with flexible and unconventional schedules, open-air, undefined workspaces, and unsupervised teams whose only expectations are to deliver on time. Whole Foods Markets publishes every executive’s salary by name (down to regional managers) and implements salary caps on all executives relative to what the lowest-paid employee makes. During the hiring process, leadership actively involves all team members. Chick-fil-a, a popular fast food location, requires all restaurant owners to physically work on the floor of their restaurant five days per week.
Another example is IBM’s company intranet page. The page features a blog and feedback forum, allowing employees to anonymously comment about their experiences, the organization, and corporate leadership. These platforms provide real-time sanity checks to every executive member up to the CEO. To remain relevant in an industry, an organization must be flexible, fluid, and open to change and innovation. Organizations who have been successful in these areas also have learned the value of employing leadership firmly rooted in reality. Owners, CEO’s and all management positions are involved in organizational processes, always connecting to employees, and dedicated to safe, well developed, trusted relationships.
Excellent books that have helped me along the way
The three books listed below are near and dear to my heart. I read at least a portion of each of these books each year. They are important to me because they help my entire life, not just my work life and aptitude in leadership. Because of these authors, I have increased my level of understanding myself and others to build fruitful and meaningful relationships.
Sh#t your ego says
My current boss actually handed this book to me about a month ago and I see why. A great read for current and aspiring leaders. This book takes you on a journey that is highly relatable. An easy and informative read, complete with insight and revelation.
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
I cannot count how many times I have read this book from cover to cover or picked it up for a quick reference. This book is my interpersonal relationship Bible.
The Power of Patience
Building patience is key in all forms of interpersonal relationships and must be at the foundation of leadership. It often takes great courage and humility to remain patient in hectic and frustrating situations. Additionally, increasing patience will elevate leadership skills and reduce stress and conflict.
Hougaard, R. & Carter, J. (2018) Ego is the enemy of good leadership