If you’ve got a robustly entrepreneurial outlook, there’s a chance you experienced early success in your career. And with good reason; regardless of the size of your enterprise, it’s the size of your enterprising spirit that has likely landed you in the corner office! You’re a go-getter, so you’re out there getting it.
But unfortunately, many of the qualities that make a great leader—confidence, passion, persistence and competitiveness among them—can go hand-in-hand with ego-dominated behavior. And when the ego gets out of balance, these seemingly positive attributes can have a dramatic impact on your personal and professional life. Here are four ways your ego could be stunting your career…and how to keep it in check.
1. You’re the Expert.
If you’re at (or near) the top of the corporate food chain, you’re obviously operating at expert level in at least one area, if not many. But that doesn’t mean you have to be good at everything—and in fact, if you’d like your business to be successful, you shouldn’t spread yourself across multiple disciplines.
As a leadership keynote speaker, I see this so often! I’ve talked a lot about the importance of delegating things you’re not great at, so that you can focus exclusively on your true areas of expertise. But that’s the trouble with ego—it makes you believe you’re the best man (or woman) for every single job.
In fact, a 2003 study conducted by Cornell University psychologists found that people tend to drastically overestimate their abilities—and in fact, people who were less capable at given tasks tended to inflate their abilities even more! Have you ever failed to delegate a task to a subordinate because you assumed you could do a better job? This is the ego at work, and it’s shifting your focus away from what’s important.
2. You’re a Micromanager.
Absolutely nobody likes to be micromanaged—but almost everybody is guilty of doing it at some point in their career! Many of my leadership keynote speaker clients admit to having done it as young managers; most of them believed at the time that it was their level of visible involvement that mattered most.
Micromanaging, though, can actually be more harmful than “just doing it yourself.” When your ego tells you to hover, it’s not only sending the message to your team that you don’t trust them to what you hired them to do, you’re also refusing to let them try and fail—which is hands-down the best teacher out there.
3. You’re the Idea Man.
When I first became CEO of the dealership business, the General Manager of our largest truck dealership was a man called Kevin. At just 28, I was a newly minted leader; Kevin was exceptionally experienced. He knew the heavy truck business inside and out—which should have made him an incredible asset.
But thanks to his ego, Kevin truly believed that an idea was ONLY a good idea if it was HIS idea. When I presented him with a few new approaches that might improve our customer service, his response was, “I’ve been doing this since Jesus was a kid.” He was also more concerned with surrounding himself with people who laughed at his jokes than people who challenged him—or pushed the business forward.
Ultimately, the negative aspects of Kevin’s ego-driven leadership outweighed both his past expertise and future potential. I ultimately replaced him with a less experienced…but more open-minded…leader.
4. You Don’t Need Help.
Are you noticing a theme yet? The ego is masterful at convincing you that you’re the all-knowing, allseeing, and especially all-doing center of the universe. If, like our friend Kevin above, you’ve surrounded yourself with “Yes Men,” it will be easy to rest on your laurels—and let your business stagnate.
In my travels as a leadership keynote speaker, I talk a lot about the importance of mentorship in every phase of your career. The ego might say, “BUT I AM THE MENTOR!” and that might be true; there are certainly younger staff members who might benefit from your knowledge and experience. But that doesn’t mean YOU don’t need a mentor, too: somebody to provide perspective you don’t have.
Still not sure you need a guiding light? Do you think you’re smarter than Steve Jobs, Bill Gates or Warren Buffet—three of the wealthiest, most innovative and most powerful men of their time? They all relied on their mentors for constant guidance through all the major milestones of their careers. I felt SO lucky to have my mentor, Frank, that I wrote a book highlighting some of the most valuable lessons he taught me.
In conclusion, I don’t mean to diminish your abilities, expertise and accomplishments—all of these should be celebrated! My only goal is to help you prevent your ego from inflating them to the point that you can’t see all of the incredible opportunities around you. Frank wouldn’t have it…and neither will I.