Managing Ego as Leader

“Leadership is something which other people have to recognize. You cannot demand that I am a leader.”

– M.S. Swaminathan, Geneticist

For many, “ego” is often seen in a negative light, often used to describe someone abusing their power due to an inflated view of themselves. However, ego does exist but can be utilized in a positive fashion. Successful leaders understand ego as not only a constant in leadership, but also a tool that can be used to enhance leadership development. Whether it’s understood positively or negatively, ego is fundamental to leadership and deserves a concerted effort from effective leaders.

What does “good” ego look like? To best understand this, it’s important to first discern what “bad” ego usually means and how it may be present in your leadership practices. With all leadership comes an inherent power over others, at least in some small sense. Recognizing this as a reality is not a bad thing at all, in fact it can be very productive. However, misunderstanding this “power” as a direct reflection of your self-image can be dangerous and lead to a misuse of ego.

Having an ego that presents a false image of oneself can be used in a predatory fashion both directly and indirectly. Leaders with an inflated ego often wield their leadership responsibilities in a way that ultimately halts the development of their organization. Negative ego is important to identify in this sense because oftentimes, it’s merely a failure to recognize one’s self image, rather than maliciously harming others. Either way, ego gone unchecked can easily become the enemy of growth.

Ego understood responsibly, on the other hand, creates a wealth of opportunities for growth for both you and your organization as a whole. For a majority of leaders, a positively effective ego is present when a clear understanding of one’s inner self exists. Having this clarity of self-image allows one’s growth and perspectives to not be totally tied to one’s particular role of a leader in a certain circumstance. This means that leadership growth can exist openly and honestly, apparent for all in your organization. In seeing leadership in this way, others will both understand your leadership principles more clearly and better discover potential for honest growth in their own life.

Kelly D. Scott
The world’s leading business advisory and executive coaching organization