I watched a CNN show the other day where the news anchor rattled off the names of all of the recent indiscretions made by public leaders lately. Although I’d heard of all of them, over time, they became a little diluted in my mind. When I heard the anchor list them, I was shocked at the size of the list; I realized that those are only “some” of the bad behaviors that leaders exhibit, since the list was limited by time (“recent”) and the term “public leader”.
“Ego” has lots of meanings. For the purposes of this post, let’s call it an “overinflated sense of self to the detriment of societal norms, friends, family, or co-workers”; I sort of made that up, but it suits the purposes of this post. Recent discussions with some of my clients who were concerned about their ego silently slipping into their life and getting the best of them got my mind engaged in thinking about it. I’d love to hear your thoughts too.
The importance of purpose and values
If you haven’t taken the time to specifically name and record what’s important to you, now is the time, before your ego takes hold. Grounding yourself in a higher purpose and values that serve others can prevent you from doing some things that you might regret later.
How to tell if your ego is showing
How do you know if you might be tipping over the edge of humility into the wild world of a super inflated ego? What signs should you look for? Here are some questions you might ask yourself:
Am I focused enough on others? You may be in danger if you are too focused on what you want. Leadership can be more resilient to ego when you serve others. Be alert for insecurities that might cause you to feel that you aren’t good enough, causing you to over-focus on yourself.
What does my organization need? Focusing on your desires to the detriment of your organization can get you into a whole lot of trouble; those leaders mentioned by CNN were some of the casualties. Remember, you are in your position to serve the greater good of your organization and our world; that’s where your focus should be.
What don’t I know? It’s very pleasing to listen to the adulation of those around you and believe the hype you hear about yourself. Listen carefully to your adversaries too. Be curious. Read. Ask questions. Stay open. Learn. Realizing that you aren’t all-knowing is a good place to start at keeping your ego in check.
Keeping it in check
Stay vigilant! It’s easy for your impulses and desires (for love, sex, money, promotion, recognition) to get the better of you. Notice when those thoughts come up; stop, breathe, and reflect on them before you act. Ask yourself if following your ego is worth it to your reputation or harm to those who count on you. Re-ground yourself often by reflecting on what’s important, and listen to those who will tell you the truth. Here’s to avoiding being one of the leaders added to the CNN list!