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How big is your ego?

Business Life 27-08-2018

Top entrepreneurs get where they are by thinking big and believing in themselves. But what if their egos threaten to topple what they’ve worked so hard for? AWM finds out how to win with humility.

It certainly takes self-confidence to lead or blaze your own path. In business, a healthy ego is an advantage as you assume all the risk and responsibility that come with being at the top. But while having a decent ego gets you places, too much can get in the way of managing effectively.

An unhealthy ego is when you have the wrong understanding of yourself… of your opinion, the impact of your activities, hence an unrealistic understanding of what you’re actually contributing. “Your ego determines your proportion of self-importance and how much you perceive yourself to be significant in the results of things you achieve. In the business world, having a massive ego means that the person has an inflated idea of their own self-importance, says leadership consultant Edward Anobah. “Specifically, what that means is they’re out of touch with reality because they think they’re more essential, more important, more significant than they actually are. Ultimately your ego is what tells you how much you see yourself as a ‘doer’.”

You calling me egotistical?

Recognising your own ego and the danger of being self-absorbed is always useful so you can identify ways to keep it in check.

“An inflated sense of self-importance will be detrimental to the business because it will force you not to properly appreciate, respect and understand others,” says Anobah. There are many factors that lead to success and thinking that you are the only one ‘making it happen’ is a pitfall because you won’t take these other factors into account. For example, a boss who insists on micromanaging every project and having the last word on every decision discourages others from taking ownership. This prevents people from growing in their jobs, and therefore keeps the company from growing. “Negating others and their contributions will ultimately lead to a lack of the proportion of success that could have been if they had been more humble,” he says.

Introspection is key to recognise if your own ego is hitting sky high. Anobah suggests looking out for the following traits:

  • Do you have a tendency to minimise the importance of others?
  • Do you think too much about your own capabilities in an over-inflated sense?  
  • Do you become overly disturbed when you may not achieve what you had originally planned?  
  • Do you think you are completely in control of all of the results of whatever’s going on in the business?
  • Who are the people around you? Does the association of your peers contribute to your sense of importance? Are they all cheerleaders or can you listen and learn from them?

How to curb your ego

There are numerous benefits of breaking ego. Anobah says: “You only need to look at case studies of what has happened to other individuals who have not kept a healthy sense of their own significance – entire empires have fallen due to ego.

“You only need to see the negative repercussions of lacking humility. Even if one achieves success they may think that they are so amazing that no-one can come close to their achievement. That is risky because it will naturally lead them to stop trying as hard. In this case, the competition which is still hungry, without considering themselves to be the greatest or entitled to success – will overtake them. People can get comfortable due to complacency due to an inflated sense of ego.”

Identifying and working to support something beyond yourself can help to put things into perspective. “If one positively identifies a greater goal, purpose, or enterprise, then that can actually help to reduce or mitigate the effects of the ego in a negative sense,” says Anobah. “This works to develop a sense of your natural proportion of influence in the wider scope of things.”

The concept of humility was revealed by Jim Collins in his book Good the Great. Collins identifies that it is humility of leadership, coupled with professional will and drive, that makes good companies become great. Their success is defined by impact, contribution and purpose – keeping attention away from themselves.

Anobah reflects on serving others. He says: “Humility is practiced by serving others, especially considering and trying to facilitate the legitimate needs of others without trying to gain anything for yourself.”

Another key to developing humility is to be open to receive guidance from various sources. “When you see people around you, including subordinates as a source of guidance – whether direct or indirect – then you’re learning from everyone so it keeps you in the mood of a humble student, hence building better relationships that hold you in good stead.”

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