Complacent superiority is your biggest clue that you are in an ego trap. The ego loves to feel superior. It loves judging, and looking down on others. It loves being right, and knowing more about everything and everyone. Leaders who operate with their ego on the front burner can rub people the wrong way. However, your ego is not your enemy. The real problem is when you leave the ego unchecked. Ego sabotages our being engaged, happy and productive at every turn. If we let it.

According to a study published in the Harvard Business Review, two in five CEOs fail in their first 18 months of leading an organization, and one-third of chief executives from Fortune 500 companies do not make it past three years because of derailing behaviors. Research shows that egotism runs rampant in the business world:

  • More than one third of bad decisions result from ego issues
  • Almost two-thirds of senior leaders do not investigate other options after they have made up their minds
  • More than eight out of ten managers force their ideas on others, regardless of the value of these ideas
  • More than one out of two business people believe that ego issue account for up to a 15% reduction in annual revenues; more than one in four estimates the cost can be up to 20%
  • More than six out of ten executives believe that ego negatively affects job performance on a daily, even hourly basis.

Organizations cease to exist or diminish their impact when their leaders are inflexible and egotistical. Ego makes people short-sighted and undermines rational and smart decision-making. Leaders who are enthralled by the ego trap are more concerned with their self than with their goals. They are consumed with how they appear to others and what others think of them. They are so self-absorbed that they fail to think of the larger context. Here is a partial list of thoughts and habits that can catapult you into the ego trap:

  • Worrying about what others think of you
  • Comparing yourself to others
  • Living in the past (everyone has a story)
  • Being preoccupied with the future
  • Chasing after wealth and material possessions
  • The need to be right or in control
  • The need for security
  • Boredom
  • Expecting perfection
  • Focusing on what’s wrong
  • Our articles “The dark triad or the fifty shades of gray in leadership” and “Executives derail” provide you with more examples.

There is a way out and around ego traps. To keep your ego in check, ask yourself these questions for reflection:

  • Do I graciously accept negative feedback about me?
  • Do I have a strategic personal development plan for myself?
  • Am I excellent at paying attention to others with listening and empathetic skills?
  • To what degree do I trust others?
  • Do I walk the talk?
  • Am I in continuous contact with my team members and wider network inside and outside of the organization?
  • Do I do my best each day to continuously improve or do I rather follow the old trails?

We must learn to admit when we are wrong, or when we just don’t know. We must learn to surrender and let go of control. This is how we stay open to new things, to continue to learn and grow. This is how we stay loose, relaxed, creative, playful and spontaneous.

“Leave your ego at the door every morning, and just do some truly great work. Few things will make you feel better than a job brilliantly done.”

Robin S. Sharma (*1964), Canadian writer of “The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari” book series

Awareness is the first step to freedom. Our view of the world is limited by our perception of it. Depending on how we perceive the world, we will interpret, decide, and react differently. Our attitude affects how we think and how we feel. Understanding own thoughts, feelings, and actions is important as it leads to discovering our own wealth of resources and power. To identify the heart of our actions, we need to discover the source of our attitude. Understanding what’s at the heart of what we feel and believe is the key to achieving what we want at work and in life.

In their article “Managers in the driving seat: How self-guided development works”, René I. Kusch and Patrick Hypscher outline six pillars that influence the sustainability of self-guided development. The pillars serve as a framework for promoting executives’ ability to embrace responsibility for their own development, thus increasing their effectiveness.

Start thinking with the end in mind. Ultimately, there is only one way to measure your life. And that is this: Are you doing your best? At the end of each (work) day, look back and ask yourself, “Did I give my all today? Did I do everything I could to accomplish my goals, and to be the kind of person and leader I want to be?”

Conscious leaders are profoundly concerned with one priority: execution and getting things done. If leaders are more interested in short-term ego gratification, they will undermine their capacity to objectively evaluate the empirical reality, which surrounds them and lead from the delusional perspective of the ego traps.

Remember: People learn what is acceptable and appropriate by seeing how you conduct yourself. Don’t let your ego run the show. Change your state of mind, and you can change your life. Coaching helps you become aware of your derailing factors, shift your thinking, and focus your attention. Contact us. 

Lead courageously, Annette.