Great Leaders Manage their Ego

So there I am, sitting around a boardroom table, some weeks ago, and watching a group of eight executives play ego games with each other. Here are eight talented, educated, experienced, highly paid people who claim to have a common purpose and vision, misusing huge chunks of expensive company time and squandering immense amounts of precious energy on being self-centered, self-righteous, self-absorbed and self-protective.
The fact of the matter is that the decisions these eight individuals make, will increase or diminish revenue, will impact the spirit and esteem of thousands of people and can make or break the future of the organization. And yet  the critical decisions on the agenda are being made by their defensive egos, as opposed to their open-minded spirit!
On this day, the air in the boardroom is filled with tension.  The body language screams defensiveness. The things they say are conciliatory untruths. The jokes they make fall into the category of ‘many a true word is said in jest’ and each one is engaging in some form of one-upmanship.  My mind went to my eight year-old grandson and his friends and how one-upmanship seemed to be such an inherent element of the way kids interact. The only difference is that eight year olds are not responsible for making strategic, innovative, growth-oriented decisions involving millions – or billions – of dollars.
Here’s the deal about the ego.  It is never going away!  And this is the good news!   You see, we need our ego because it is only by consciously watching the havoc that our ego creates, that we are able to deliberately make a choice to manage our defensive ego and liberate our bold, courageous and authentic spirit.
Think of a coin. If you throw a coin up in the air sometimes it lands heads up and other times tails up.  In the same way, each one of us has two sides. The one side of our being is the inauthentic ego self and the other is the real spirited self.  Just as a coin is not a coin without these two sides, so as human beings we cannot exist without these two sides to our being. On some occasions we are ego side up – the ego takes over and we are defensive, playing unproductive games that set up success-diminishing conditions.  On other occasions we are spirit side up – the authentic side of us comes to the fore and we are bold, courageous, open and collaborative, mixed with humility; and making remarkable things happen.
So how do great leaders manage their ego?

Step 1:  They learn how their ego sounds and behaves when it is taking control.
Step 2:  They are constantly vigilant for signs of this happening.  They are aware that the if they can manage their ego before it does any damage, they have a greater chance of achieving their goals and the company’s goals.
Step 3:  Once they recognize that the ego has taken the control and their authentic self has lost its strength, they follow three 3 steps:
Make a Statement to themselves:  “Oops my ego has the power – I need to give the power back to my authentic self.
Ask  themselves a Question:  “What would my authentic self do and say differently?”
Respond to the situation with authentic behavior and language.
Just the simple act of becoming aware of the ego offers leaders the choice to be real or to be full of ego bluff and bluster.  So the ego plays a role in our lives.  Each time our ego takes control it sets up a moment of choice for us. It offers us the amazing opportunity of choosing to reconnect with the immense power of the spirited self and achieve our goals and dreams.
Finally I would highly recommend that the next time you are recruiting someone, ask them this:
Do you know how to recognize when your ego has the power?
Are you able to shift this power to your authentic self?
If they look at you like you are crazy – don’t hire them!


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