“THE KEY IS SELF-CONTROL”
Ego often gets a bad reputation – think of extreme individuals such as Alan Jones, Donald Trump and Kim Kardashian. But I believe that ego, when understood and controlled, is a good thing.
The key is self-control. When others see you valuing yourself above the team, relationships and trust can fade away. I’m sure that you too can list fallen leaders who failed through lack of self-control.
In my experience, self-belief and humility are important traits for any leader. Perhaps the world’s best example of both traits in one person is Nelson Mandela. After 27 years in prison as a “terrorist”, in 1990 when he was released Mandela demonstrated a true humility and self-belief that apartheid could be changed without violence – traits that allowed him to become the first black president of South Africa.
On a smaller scale, as a first-time CEO, I had to take charge with confidence and develop a plan for change. I would have failed if I had thought it was all about me. We built a good team over 10 years and always looked for better ways to build the business. No leader knows every answer, so trust others and seek knowledge.
“BELIEVE IN YOURSELF”
If you consider ego to be the awareness of one’s identity and existence, then yes, I think there’s a valid place for it in the workplace.
Having a healthy self-awareness and appreciating how you relate to others and the world is a positive thing and allows you to connect with what you are working on and with those you are working with. It’s when the sense of self becomes inflated that it becomes unhelpful – self-importance, superiority, megalomania.
To be a successful leader you need to have belief in yourself, your purpose and your team. If you don’t believe in yourself you can’t expect anyone else to.
When considering humility, this quote from C.S. Lewis sums it up: “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less.”
To lead, you need to be able to put yourself in the shoes of your tribe, your stakeholders and take yourself out of the picture. You may be able to hook them with your belief, but without humility you may end up with no-one to lead. So while there is a place for both, in the long run I think humility is the more desirable quality.
“WE ALL HAVE AN EGO”
We all have an ego. What varies between us is how much ego we express in the workplace. My opinion is that the less ego present, the more effective we are in our work and our relationships.
The main problem with a big ego is that it stops you from listening. People with a healthy ego are very self-aware and understand the impact their actions have on others. It’s about being curious and having empathy, and knowing that you don’t know everything. Humility helps avoid issues such as procrastination, lack of decision-making, and poor goal setting, as those who believe in themselves tend to have an understanding of the fears, the beliefs and the values that drive their behaviours. As a consequence, they know how to take action and take others on the journey while being aware of the risks and their own limitations.