I have a big ego.

And although I’m OK with it having a presence in my life, there are times when I feel it starting to dominate my behaviour.

Only last week, I was in a meeting where I was a newcomer. My unrelenting desire to be “right, clever, eloquent and wise” was almost palpable.

I knew my ego was out in full force with ‘her party clothes on’. I recognised I was actually more concerned about contributing “ingenious” dialogue than I was about the group dynamics, and what was best for the team as a whole.

I took some small consolation in the fact I was aware in the moment of what was going on for me, but it was a very small consolation nevertheless.

Do you ever feel like this?

Big ego - The Leader's Digest

As uncomfortable as I was with the revelation, I have come to believe it is foolish to try and rid one’s self of one’s ego.

Current leadership literature is saturated with the virtues of “giving up your ego” and usurping the ‘I’ for the ‘we’.  But I wonder if this is like asking us to give up ‘less pleasant’ emotions like anger in favour of other more ‘pleasant’ tasting ones, such as joy.

Or, valuing your arms over your legs. Good luck with that one…

Our ego may be an uncomfortable companion, but trying to shun such an integral part of ourselves altogether, especially in our roles as leaders, is like ignoring a human function as integral as breathing.

As the infinitely wise Deepak Chopra once said –

“The Ego, however, is not who you really are. The ego is your self-image; it is your social mask; it is the role you are playing. Your social mask thrives on approval. It wants control, and it is sustained by power, because it lives in fear.”

Experience has taught me it is important to pay more attention to the awareness of ego.

Make an effort to notice…

When it is ‘out in force’, trumpets blaring.

When it is jostling for attention in our psyche or head space.

What situations trigger our ego to come to the forefront of our behaviour and actions.

And conversely, when it feels comfortable to take a back seat, contented there is nothing to prove.

As leaders, if we take the approach of awareness rather than banishment of our egos, we are more likely to be aware of its impact.

So, the next time you are aware of an intense hunger to be right, to be adored, to contribute intelligent rhetoric, to claim the ‘air space’, or to simply prove yourself at all costs, be aware of the fact your ego has come out to play.

Don’t wait for external forces to provide this for you. This is your cue to say “hello there you. Here you are.  You are OK. There’s no need to shout.  I can hear you.”  And then…“Now settle down.”

Some possible helpful notes:

“Ego” is a Latin and Greek (ἑγώ) word meaning “I”, often used in English to mean the “self”, “identity” or other related concepts.

The term narcissism comes from the Greek myth of Narcissus, a handsome Greek youth who rejected the desperate advances of the nymph Echo. These advances eventually led Narcissus to fall in love with his own reflection in a pool of water. Unable to consummate his love, Narcissus “lay gazing enraptured into the pool, hour after hour,” and finally changed into a flower that bears his name, the narcissus.[1]