Make Ego Work for You!
Ego…the age-old blessing and curse of human performance. However, ego definitely finds itself in a negative light more often than a positive one. ‘Gee, he’s got a bit ego’ or ‘Her ego is getting in her own way’. I may be wrong, but I haven’t heard too many compliments that have the word ‘ego’ in it. Ego isn’t all bad, and we can make it work for us and our success, it is possible!
Ego Under the Microscope
We hear it all the time, but where does the word come from and in a micro and very literal sense, what does it even mean?! Ego is the Latin word for ‘I’. Ah, well doesn’t that all make sense now! It literally means ‘self’ and ‘me’ and it sums it up pretty well. Now we know that in its most basic form, it means self, it is easier to see it in a more positive light. Nothing about its literal translation is of a bigheaded nature, is it?
There are many debates out there that argue that either ego is the enemy, or it isn’t the enemy and that the illusion of self is the actual enemy. Despite all of these arguments, I want to join the two and say that it can be used for positive things such as motivation, drive and stickability, or it can have negative effects such as arrogance that leads us to self-sabotage. Both of these effects of ego influence performance and our success, one just does a more positive job.
Career coach Liz Bentley says, “ego is our greatest strength and our greatest weakness…it can propel us, and it can sabotage us all the way down.” That sums it up perfectly. So, maybe it has never been about getting rid of your ego, it is just about harnessing the dragon of ego so that it works to propel you, instead of it tripping you over on the way to success.
Healthy Ego + Awareness = Success
“Not having an ego is not optional but having a healthy one is.” Every workplace, whether large or small, collaborative or relatively individual, requires people to work together. Inflated egos become cancer to teams and workplaces, deteriorating communication, teamwork, and sabotaging the collective mission.
As a fighter pilot, I have seen how critical teamwork is, in the most serious of situations, where people’s lives are well and truly on the line. There is no room for inflated egos and bigheadedness! It should be the same in every team, whether lives are on the line or not! Healthy egos + awareness = success. There are no two ways about it!
Deep performing teams are mission orientated, and when egos get out of control, it becomes a distraction, a setback and a problem that then steers the team away from the mission. We can’t afford this! Maintaining a healthy ego is an individual responsibility with collective effects, and that is why big egos cannot be ignored and must be harnessed!
Harnessing the Dragon
Okay, I may have made it sound dramatic, but the ego isn’t necessarily a wild beast that needs years of breaking in and rounding up to become functional in the positive light. It is more of a beast we let run wild for a bit but we’re bringing it back and just re-taming it and letting it work for us, rather than us working for it. Even the smallest changes begin taming the beast.
Let’s start right where it hurts…it is essential that you keep your ego (sense of self), separate from your position. You are not just the sum of your position, your salary or how many people busily work for you. We can make our sense of self, work for our position, but they are separate. I am certain you could think of a list of people (in a non-egotistical way) that believe they are only as good as their job. They boast and parade their credentials as if that makes them the most qualified and capable person around. Don’t get me wrong, take pride in what you do, it is critical, however, there is a difference between taking pride in what you do, and making what you do the only thing that gives you a sense of self!
What makes a good leader is their capacity to have a multifaceted identity. No, not an identity crisis, but the ability to know what a situation requires of them and act accordingly. Ego is critical to this ability. It will hold you up when it needs to, but it is essential that it does not grow so large that people can no longer speak truth to you. People cower in the face of large egos, and this makes truth a rare commodity in a business run by ‘large-ego’ people because no one wants to tell them what they need to hear! Become diverse, laugh at yourself, slow down, respond instead of reacting, and be a leader or a person who invites truth! See, harnessing the dragon is not so hard, it just takes small actions!
Bye-Bye big Ego…
Can you see it? That ego isn’t the enemy, the way we choose to use it is! We are all capable of self-development to ensure our egos don’t become so big we can’t take the truth, or we end up infecting the whole team with a cancerous attitude that steers us away from the mission. Start now and your team and you will thank you later! Bye-bye big egos, hello healthy sense of self! If you are looking for more information on team building, click ‘here’!
Hey! You're Biased! – #5 Cognitive Dissonance
Ever done something that makes you feel as uncomfortable as looking at the picture above because the action you did, didn't line up with your beliefs or what you know to be true? I think everyone would have multiple occasions that would come to mind! That discomfort you feel when this occurs is called cognitive dissonance. It is basically knowing that what we're doing isn't right, but the need or want to do it overrides that knowledge when carryout out the task! Let's get unbiased!
Bondy, H. (2019). Why having a big ego isn’t always a bad thing. MSNBC. https://www.msnbc.com/know-your-value/why-having-big-ego-isn-t-always-bad-thing-executive-n1104591
Gamio, C. (2018). The influence of ego in high performing teams. LinkedIn. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/influence-ego-high-performance-teams-c%C3%A9sar-gamio/
Guilbeault, L. (2022). What’s the best way to define ego? Better Help. https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/willpower/whats-the-best-way-to-define-ego/
Minimalism Made Simple. (2021). Letting go of your ego: A 10-step guide. Minimalism Made Simple. https://www.minimalismmadesimple.com/home/let-go-of-ego/
Nobl Academy. (2020). How to make ego work for you as a leader. Nobl Academy. https://academy.nobl.io/how-to-make-your-ego-work-for-you-as-a-leader/