Leaders today understand that too much ego can be destructive and can have broad-ranging consequences for a team or a company. When a leader is operating purely from ego, instead of focusing on what’s best for the team or the company, the focus is often turned to what best satisfies their own personal agenda. Although most of us are aware of the damaging impacts that these patterns can have, many of us lack the knowledge or awareness to identify our own ego patterns, or the strategies to move beyond them.
This article offers a highly practical and experiential path toward identifying ego patterns and leading beyond them. It introduces a unique path – the Inner Compass – that has been tried and tested with top-level executives and senior teams around the world. This path helps solve the conflict that exists between subconscious, ego-driven defence mechanisms and the inner-self’s higher purpose. It’s a path that starts with self-awareness, and then continuously expands to include the impact on both teams and entire organisations. It is a path that raises awareness and enables the reader to embrace conscious leadership – not just as a concept, but in every interaction in their leadership role.
In addition to being an inspiring masterpiece for leadership development, Leading Beyond Ego takes the reader on a journey of personal growth and self-actualisation. It provides the reader with a self-help guide to personal development, leading them toward their own inner compass. Along that path, it suggests using mindfulness, meditation and yoga exercises to develop the holistic awareness needed to stay present to our own compass.
Highly relevant to readers coming from the areas of leadership, management, team leadership and HR, the article supports the development of a ‘servant’ leadership career, forming the foundation of a sustainable ESG business culture built on conscious leadership. Let’s do Leading Beyond Ego.
Leadership and Ego
Leadership has become one of the most mystified and crowded topics. Leading Beyond ego is the guide for every leader to go straight to the core of leadership and what matters most, which can sometimes be most painful to the leader. Understanding who you are and how you connect this to the purpose of your business is key to being an authentic leader today and every day.
Obviously, changing the world begins by transforming our inner-world. When we drop from our heads to our hearts and figure out what we really care about, we can craft our life-compass for effective leadership.
Overcoming Our Ego Traits in Leadership
There is one trait that most business leaders around the world have in common. It’s an inherited behaviour that we unconsciously learned from other leaders: a blindspot that – until it is pointed out to us – can dominate all of our interactions with the individuals that we manage, but also our teams too.
This trait is so insidious that, until we become aware of it, we usually don’t even recognise it. It sits at the centre of our communications, our interactions and our decisions, subtly influencing everything we do. The quality in question is our tendency to lead with our egos at the forefront: an approach that is so widely accepted as the norm in business leadership most of us haven’t considered questioning it, or asked if there is a more effective way forward.
How Ego-Based Leadership Evolved
Many of us enter the world of business because we are visionaries who have always naturally seen ways that things could be done more efficiently and effectively in the world. There’s a problem-solving, forward-thinking mindset that is common among business leaders. We have a way of seeing the solutions in the world.
The challenge is that the part of our mind that is evolutionary and visionary isn’t the part of our mind that is associated with ego. In fact, the opposite is true. Our ego develops out of our scarcity mindset. It comes from the part of our minds that divides the world into fear, competition and defensiveness. It forms from the belief that there are not enough resources in the world, so we have to compete for what we have.
On a personal level, many of the ego’s traits also form when we are much younger. What most of us assume to be our personalities are often enmeshed with learned behaviours or ego-based strategies that were designed to keep us safe. We experience our challenges in the world – either a single traumatic event or a series of events which could more accurately be described as the ‘context’ wherein we were raised. As children, we often don’t have the knowledge or resources to respond effectively to what we experience in our environment – so we make decisions and form traits based on the challenges that we face, and thus our ego is formed. Some of these patterns are useful and ensure that we go far in life. Many of them will have been strategies that enabled us to be where we are today. But some of those traits are counterproductive to our most effective way forward as leaders. Although they may have got us this far, many of us are realising that there is another way.
The Challenges That Ego-Based Leadership Create
In our personal lives, most of us can recognise traits of the ego if we look hard enough. Our defensive communications, our insistence on being right at all costs, our refusal to apologise (even when there is an underlying feeling that we could possibly be wrong), these are the common and obvious traits of the ego in our personal relationships. But because ego-based leadership has been so common and widely accepted for so long, we don’t usually question these and similar behaviours when we display them in management.
We might find ourselves showing up as the leader who is always right, and not being open to feedback from our teams. Or we lead with a ‘carrot-and-stick’’ mentality with our employees, often pitching them against each other – thus unwittingly creating fear in the workplace. This leads to silo-based goals and cultures of prioritising targets. It causes our teams to focus on short-term gains rather than long-term wins.
Although on the surface it might appear that these strategies are effective, the downside is that they create psychologically unsafe work environments where individuals are afraid to express creative opinions and expansive ideas are not heard or considered. This kind of environment is counterproductive in the long-run, and many of us are realising that there is a more effective way forward.
Why Leading Beyond Ego is Essential
In recent times, we’ve started to see a new type of leadership emerging. This type of leadership turns the current paradigm of fear-based motivation on its head. We’re seeing a more dynamic approach that is more purposeful, compassionate and humane. This evolutionary approach creates an environment wherein individuals and teams are able to flourish and thrive. It removes unnecessary stress and fear from the workplace, creating psychologically safe working environments. It creates workplaces where employees feel that they are respected and their opinions are valued and heard.
And this new environment means that we can work more harmoniously toward a common goal. It’s this type of generative leadership that is being championed in these times, and individuals at the forefront of the leadership field are collectively starting to ask, “How do we implement this style of leadership so that we can get the best out of our teams in this way?”
Beginning to Lead Beyond Ego
The challenge with Leading Beyond Ego is that it isn’t a single course that we go on, or a box that we tick to say that it is done. It actually starts with us being willing to take a deep (and usually very uncomfortable) look inside to acknowledge where our ego patterns developed, and to start unpicking them one by one. If we don’t look within, we’ll continue the very patterns that we’ve come to rely on since we were young. We have to dismantle the ego in order to lead in this way. If we fake it, it will be obvious to both ourselves and those whom we lead. It’s the kind of work that needs to be done at our core so we create a fundamental change, rather than one that is mechanical or forced.
The Inner Compass of Conscious Leadership
When the writers started to tackle the issue of leading more consciously in our business coaching many years ago, we realised that conscious leadership is a topic that many leaders find difficult to discuss. Over this past decade, we have been refining a method of enabling leaders to not only discover the core of their ego-based leadership, but also to start dismantling it so they can lead beyond it. It’s a method that we have come to call ‘The Inner Compass’ because it gives business leaders a tool to navigate the very territory that has often been most foreign to them: the inner workings of their destructive patterns and a way of dismantling them, and we and our teams have been sharing it with business leaders around the world.
It starts with setting the course in our lives, reminding ourselves of what is meaningful to us and ensuring we are aligned with our company’s purpose. From this place we can meet our egos. We set an intention to uncover the elements of ourselves that are not representing the best versions of who we are. Then we work toward developing humility as a strength.
We start to let go of who we were and develop the courage to move into a more conscious version of ourselves. And then we move into some of the higher elements of humanity such as forgiveness and deep-felt gratitude; and when we embrace these aspects of ourselves, we see a profound impact in our leadership roles. This eight-part journey is not one that we go around once and are done. We can go around the Compass for a lifetime – and it can constantly impact the type of leader that we are, growing day by day.
So the evolution of business leadership is not just found in being someone who can meet high targets and push our employees to achieve company goals and standards. It turns out that the evolution of business leadership begins with ourselves. Making a commitment to Lead Beyond Ego is a personal journey that, if we are willing to take it, will have a resounding impact on not just the way we lead, but the way our teams work too.
Taking a journey to conscious leadership and leading beyond your ego means you’ll have the tools and practices necessary to transform yourself into a humble leader: one that Leads Beyond Ego and is deeply respected by their team.
Frank Adu Anim in Collaboration with Dr. Genevieve Pearl Duncan Obuobi (Lead Consultant on Cx. Leadership & SME, Country Chair, Ladies in Business), Sasha Allenby, Founder & Director EqualityHive (USA) and Thor Olafsson, CEO & Founder, Strategic Leadership Group.
Frank is the CEO and Strategic Partner of AQUABEV Investment and Discovery Consulting Group, and an Executive Director and the Lead Coach in Leadership Development and best Business Management