I’ve noticed another interesting theme as I’ve interviewed senior business leaders recently. As I’ve asked them what they’ve learned on the way from being an expert individual contributor to becoming an effective leader, several said they’ve had to learn to check their egos at the door.
Do you have Over-Inflated Ego Disorder (OIED)?
Take the following quiz to find out …
- Do you have to be the smartest person in the room? The successful leaders we interviewed were committed to hiring others who were smarter and more talented than they were. They leaned on them for help and advice, and they gave them opportunities to grow, flourish and excel. They learned not to pretend to know answers when they didn’t. They encouraged others to share their ideas and expertise, instead of looking for ways to show everyone how smart they were. They realized the “I’m the smartest” approach not only limits others’ growth and development, but it hurts employee engagement and trust. And it limits everyone’s effectiveness.
- Do you have a hard time admitting, “I don’t know?” If you have to be the “answer man” all the time, it’s hard to give yourself permission to be a learner. You’ll also be reluctant to tackle new challenges out of fear that you will fail. Research shows that people who view themselves as learners perform better than people who must maintain their “smartest in the room” reputation.
- Have you apologized lately for a mistake you’ve made? The successful executives we interviewed had learned that most people appreciate and admire the leader who genuinely admits a mistake and tries to make it right.
- Do you try to motivate people based on helping them or based on helping yourself? The former approach thinks of what’s best for others and the latter can be self-centered and manipulative. People smell the difference.
- Do you value others’ time as much as your own? Leaders with OIED are often late and they cancel meetings at the last minute without taking initiative to reschedule. At least they do this with people “lower” in the organization. Hmmmm.
- Do you put the needs and interests of others and the organization above your own? One senior executive told me he had spent most of his career focused on maximizing his annual bonus. Yet when he decided to focus on better serving the interests of his team and his organization, two things happened. One, he saw his organization’s performance improve. Two, his team began to trust him and follow his lead more willingly. And eventually the resulting up-tick in his team’s performance translated into financial rewards for him.
Learning to swallow our pride is more difficult than learning to swallow a pill.
But there is no other cure for the leader who wants to overcome OIED.
Joe Baker is a Partner with PeopleResults. In his work as a leadership consultant and executive coach, he is devoted to the cure of OIED in leaders – for all of our sakes. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JoeBakerJr.