Can you be an effective leader if you’re also carrying around a big ego? Or more precisely carrying around a lot of insecurities that your ego needs to feed?
Let me first break down what I mean by ego so we are clear on that – Ego is something we all have. It’s a development humans go through that helps them to self identify and separate themselves from others. There is such a thing called a healthy ego, and that is what I would call a small, well developed and, balanced ego – which means:
A Healthy Ego is one where good self-esteem reigns. What this means is that there are little to no insecurities about one’s real feelings of worth so there would be little reactivity when the outside world challenges one. ~ tamingyourego.com
Many of us would like to think we have really healthy ego’s but more often than not, the majority of us lie somewhere in the spectrum closer to BIG ego with a whole team of insecurities. This is not our fault of course. To have a healthy ego you would need to have super parenting and also a fairly positive upbringing in school and in your community – This is just not a reality many of us have. And some of us are subjected to early childhood trauma which makes having a balanced ego even more difficult.
However – when it comes time to start ‘adulting’ it is up to us to start doing the work necessary to balance out our insecurities, learn some coping skills, focus on the choices we make, heal from old wounds and any addictions etc.and get help where we need it.
Essentially, this is what healthy ego means to me versus big wounded ego. Now back to my question.
Can a Big ego be an effective or ‘good’ leader?
In my opinion it is a resounding – NO.
And before you get your hackles up ( note the big ego insecurities if you are) there is a very valid reason for this, and it includes a responsibility to your community that alleviates some of the childhood wounding we already discussed by BEING the agent of change that our society needs very badly.
Let’s explore what a GOOD leader is – a good leader is someone who understands that they must put their community first. A good leader is someone who lifts from above and pushes from behind. A good leader is an example and never dictates or controls. A positive role model in a leader is someone who understands the needs of the whole rather than just the one. A good leader can make difficult decisions trusting in their own ability to take everyone into account and not just a select few. A good leader knows when to back down and let others take the lead to empower them. A good leader knows how to share in ideas, thoughts, energy and abundance. A good leader is for the people, not for themselves.
Sound good? Of course, that’s the leader we all want to work with. They are out there, I’ve worked with them and I aim to be one every day. But it takes work on my part to ensure I’ve got ‘me ego’ in check at all times.
So, why can’t a BIG ego person be a good leader? Well, since we’ve established that a big ego is an unhealthy ego that is prone to insecurities this person will likely have a lot of trouble trusting people, empowering people and not being in the spotlight all of the time.
Leaders who are not actively working on themselves to develop a healthy and balanced ego will damage relationships and ultimately their organization if they cannot learn to lead by putting their ego aside.
The following are some of the negative effects of BIG ego leaders:
- Big ego leader will be threatened by superstars or up and coming individuals within the organization/community.
- Big ego leader will unconsciously sabotage any person that does work that gets noticed by others.
- Big ego leader will refuse to produce other leaders preferring to keep him or herself the ‘top dog’ at all times.
- Big ego leader will need to control everything which will result in many things getting overlooked and key relationships being damaged due to a lack of time being so busy controlling everything.
- Big ego leaders are not capable of delegating tasks and teaching, they would rather micro manage so that they still have control.
- Big ego leader will utilize FREE work or ask you to provide your services for ‘EXPOSURE’ – I’m sure you’ve been asked that one.
- Big ego leader will use what you give them, and then discard you when you are no longer of use – again, this is to always keep their hidden ( unconscious) agenda of not letting anyone take the spotlight. So, this leader cannot have people around for too long who catch on to what he or she is doing.
- Big ego leader will leverage people with networks for their own gain.
- Big ego leader will insist that everyone be branded with THEIR brand and not have their own individuality – this is more for organizations who are more competitive minded than community minded.
- Big ego leader will be competitive and aim to CRUSH the targeted competition rather than work in collaboration and as a community.
These are just some of the tell tale signs of a BIG ego leader. You might find that leaders display half of these signs, but not all – that still is reflective of an ego that is still running the show.
So, what are the signs of a positive, empowering and healthy ego leader?
- Healthy ego leader will enjoy empowering others within their organization/community and will support up and coming superstars as much as they can.
- Healthy ego leader will offer individual support and attention to those who show passion and interest in the work to help them to succeed – EVEN if that means surpassing the leader.
- Healthy ego leader aims to produce other leaders all of the time. IT is their goal to empower future leaders for the community.
- Healthy ego leaders do not feel the need to control everything. In fact, they feel that when they allow others to take over control they learn new things from new perspectives. They value the differing approaches from other individuals.
- Healthy ego leaders are fabulous at delegating and giving power to others to fail and succeed, but to ultimately find their own way with the leaders support.
- Healthy ego leader will never ask for free work, or if they do they will make sure they provide equal amounts of time/product or otherwise in return. A healthy ego leader believes in balance and what is given, must be given back.
- Healthy ego leader will always put relationship first. When you are a part of their organization or community you will always be a part of it even if you cannot give anything to it. Your value is not based on what you give them, but what value you bring to the community overall.
- Healthy ego leader has humility and gives credit where credit is due. They have integrity and don’t ‘steal’ or ‘take’ contacts or connections away from others
- Healthy ego leader is happiest when collaborating and working for community. Competition is not a reality to them at any time. Everyone has something unique to bring to the story, so this leader encourages differences.
- Healthy leader is ALWAYS community over competition. This leader will not hesitate to work with so called ‘competition’ or even send work their way. Healthy leader is always true to their word and realizes that they cannot serve everyone, there is the right business for the task and that is not always their own business. They come from a place of abundance rather than lack or ‘not enough’ that fuels the competition.
If you are working with a leader who carries many of these characteristics then lucky you! Stick with them and learn from them! They have obviously done their own work to establish a healthy, balanced ego that is not running the entire show.
A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves. Lao Tzu
You may find leaders who have characteristics of both, and that’s ok too. It’s up to you to assess if this leader is truly working hard on balancing themselves, or if they aren’t even aware and are just ‘lucky’ to ‘look’ like they are a healthy ego leader.
It always comes down to awareness. The healthy leader will never blame, attack, get defensive or any other negative and insecure reactions. A healthy leader is aware of their actions and aware that they can choose. A Big ego leader is almost always unconscious of everything they are doing.
A good leader takes a little more than his share of the blame, a little less than his share of the credit. Arnold H. Glasow
It always comes down to emotional health – you want a leader who has failed, learned from those failures, picked themselves back up and learned how to work within a community rather than just for themselves. They fight to serve, not to have servants. So if you are a leader, take stock of your behavior and be aware. If you are following a leader – know that you TOO have a choice to keep following them, or to trust your instincts and find a leader who will be there for you, rather than just for themselves.
No one will make a great leader who wants to do it all herself or get all the credit for doing it. Andrew Carnegie
Thoughts, comments? Please share below!