GUT CHECK: Has Your Ego Crept Up On You?

April 18, 2014 Vince Molinaro

Raj - blog pic

While killing some time on a recent business trip, I had the chance to watch an old episode of The Big Bang Theory that spoke directly to a recent blog I wrote on success and how it tends to be a liability for some leaders.

In this episode Raj is the centre of attention after being named as one of the ‘Top 30 under 30’ by People Magazine for a scientific discovery. At first, Raj is simply thrilled to have made the list. However, as the episode continues, he begins to torment his friends and colleagues, full of pride and hubris about being celebrated in a national magazine.

With a made-in-Hollywood happy ending, Raj ultimately realizes the error of his ways, and apologizes to the people he has hurt with his prideful display. If only real-life leaders were as self-aware as Raj.

Far too many leaders let personal success go to their heads. These are the leaders who allow their egos, fed by the thrill of getting a promotion and new responsibilities, to grow out of control.

In turn, they tend to alienate colleagues and the people they lead. And unlike our friend Raj, they rarely figure out on their own just how destructive their egos have become.

In this post, I want to pass on a few methods that all leaders can use to help keep their egos in check. In many ways, each one of these are Gut Check questions in their own right, an essential check and balance for any leader:

1)   Has your ‘self-talk’ become entirely one-sided?

As leaders, it’s always good to engage in some frank ‘self-talk.’ Those are the quiet moments when we should be frankly assessing our performance. Has your self-talk become entirely self-congratulatory? Do you spend too much time telling yourself how great you are and how lacking everyone else is around you? Self-talk is a check and balance on ego. It’s not an opportunity to feed the beast.

2)   How is my posture and body language?

As ridiculous as it seems, one of the things that gives away many egomaniacs is simple posture and body language. Ask yourself, do you walk away from people in mid-sentence, neglect common courtesies and otherwise preen and strut around your office? Be aware that as a leader, everyone takes their cues from you. If you ignore people, and carry an air of superiority into every meeting, you will alienate the people you’re leading.

3)   Have you stopped taking responsibility for things that go wrong?

No leader enjoys 100 per cent success, all of the time. Things go wrong. When that happens, do you find it getting easier and easier to find someone else to blame? True leadership is being able to maintain the confidence of the people you lead in good times, and in bad. When failure occurs, realize that as a leader you share in the blame. That will ultimately build confidence in you, and drive better performance by the people you lead.

So as your reflect on these ideas, think about your answer to this week`s Gut Check question: Can you confront and effectively manage your out-of-control ego?

About the Author

Vince Molinaro

Vince Molinaro is the Global Managing Director of Strategic Solutions at Lee Hecht Harrison. He is also the author of The Leadership Contract – a New York Times and USA Today bestseller. Vince has spent more than 20 years as an adviser to boards and senior executives looking to improve leadership in their organizations.

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