Our ego helps in a lot of ways. It provides a basis for our human survival, gives us our sense of identity, and helps us identify needed boundaries. Along with helping us, we should make sure our ego is serving our best interests and not makes us a slave to fear and prompting us to feel the need to control. Fear and control are two areas which keep us from being our best, most empowered self. Fear will keep us small, its voice will tell us our dreams will not come true, we don't deserve love or praise, and that we are not worthy of being recognized for our accomplishments. Sometimes, it will keep us from even trusting our own inner instincts and ourselves.
Leaders need a certain amount of ego to give them some fire and energy. As with all things in leadership, balance is the key. Ego helps you stay strong and take charge of various situations you will encounter, and being able to keep your ego in check will enable you to demonstrate your ability to strongly lead yourself. Only high performing leaders can achieve this vital balance to position themselves to lead strong teams, build strong organizations, and achieve sustainable results.
Here are four tactical suggestions to keep your ego checked:
1. Accept Praise, But Stay Real
There's nothing wrong with you receiving a pat on the back when it's well deserved. If you are practicing your role well, there should be praise coming your way. Just because you are a leader, you shouldn't be exempt from things all human beings enjoy emotionally. The challenge for you is to accept the praise and the good feeling it brings, while at the same time remembering that you are no better than the next person. Ancient Romans had a practice in which when they welcomed home victorious military leaders, they would put a slave next to him in the victory pride who whispered in his ear "All glory is fleeting, remember you are mortal." Success is something you must continually earn, even after you have won and received praise.
2. Learn What Your Ego Sounds Like
If you can pay attention and learn what your ego sounds like, it can be empowering. Here are some tips. Your ego will question you at every step. It takes on the voice of fear. It sounds nervous, doubting, and unsure. If you ever try to do something based on your instincts, and a little voice chimes in with a question, it's typically your ego. It's the part of you that tells you to eat the doughnut while you are trying to lose weight because you deserve it, then comes back and condemns you for it. It will tell you that you are alone in this world and you can trust no one. If you can learn what your ego sounds like, you can catch it in the act and bring it into submission.
3. Have An Inner Circle Who You Can Trust To Be Honest With You
All leaders need it, very few have it. You need a group of 3-5 people around you who can help advise you and give you straight talk. If you can assemble this group, they will provide valuable advice to you and help you keep your humility level where it needs to be. You will have to decide the composition of your inner circle, but it doesn't have to be totally made up of people on your team. You could have one or two people from your team you highly trust as well as a couple of people from outside your company. The main thing is that they have nothing to lose by being totally honest with you about their viewpoint. This is one of the greatest values I bring as an Executive Coach is the trust and honesty I utilize with my client.
4. Regular Reflection Time
You should spend time regularly gaining perspective on what you are doing. An honest look at where you may have missed the boat on decisions, behaviors, motivations, and how you have treated others. This time is vital to help you, as a productive, high-performance leader, to keep your own ego in check. Do not spend too much time reviewing the negative and don't beat yourself up too much. You simply need a realistic self-assessment of where you may have come up short from where you would have desired to be.