Ego – it’s all about me
June 14, 2019 by Sara Redman
One truth that keeps showing up for me in my life and work is that self-awareness is a fundamental ingredient in inspirational leadership. The more we build and cultivate our self-awareness, the greater we are able to ‘see’ who we really are, and what impact our actions have on others. We are then best placed to make conscious choices about the style and approach we take in any given situation. Ultimately, this is a clear path to becoming a better leader.
One of my favourite courageous ways to build self-awareness is to ask – how does my ego show up in the way I live, work & lead? This is a surprisingly impactful exercise. I know that it shocked me when I acknowledged that yes, I do have an ego (!). For most of my life I had convinced myself that I did not have an ego, and any sign of an ego pushing its way into my radar was swiftly curtailed by me…or so I thought. In fact, and with much embarrassment initially, I worked out that my ego was all about presenting as if I don’t have an ego! When this finally dawned on me it was quite a shock. I realised firstly how ridiculous this pattern had been for me, and importantly how much energy I had spent on keeping my ‘non-ego’ in check. It was liberating to finally let go of this drain, and instead, openly acknowledge my ego and manage it consciously.
Every time I ask leaders this question, insight follows. One leader sheepishly shared that his ego is ‘all about sitting back and waiting for others to discover he is right!’ Which initially resulted in his own laughter and then greater insight into how he ticks. Sharing this with his peers made it more impactful. Another leader shared that her ego is ‘all about being liked and popular….’ And another uncovered that his ego shows up by ‘…..always speaking first to look like he knew what he was talking about, even if he didn’t.’
It is important to acknowledge that ego is not all bad – in fact it is essential for us psychologically to have a strong sense of our self. Who we are, what matters to us, and how we interact with the world is one way of defining our ego. When we don’t know how our ego operates is when we can see a negative impact on others, by creating a block in our perception. For example, a seemingly arrogant person may be presenting in this way to protect a low self-esteem. Once you become aware of this the arrogance (aka ego) can be dropped and the self-esteem can be fostered.
How does your ego show up?