Saturday, October 28th, 2017
EGO—FRIEND or FOE of CEO
Did that title just rhyme? Made me smile. Not changing it. (That’s my ego saying,”Take me as I come.”)
I’ve worked up close with many CEO’s, not as an outside consultant, but as a colleague seeing up close the strengths and flaws and great moments and times of defeat for each of them. I’ve never known a top executive that didn’t have a strong (enough) ego to want the top job and thought they could do it as well or better than anyone else. I can think of one exception who was thrust into the role, didn’t like it, was taken out of CEO position and suddenly was furious and wronged to be removed. So ego anyway.
How much ego is needed to be CEO? What kind of ego is needed? A strong ego is needed to: 1 think well enough of yourself to think you can do the job, 2 have and create optimism when and where it may not exist 3 to protect yourself against organizational foes 4. to think and feel you have the right to direct and move a company in new directions 5. to assume leadership before it is given. These are just a few categories of need for a strong ego.
But here is one I want to emphasize today that is not always recognized as ego. Today we see and talk about Ego’s run muck, inflated and blind. These are weak, hungry, greedy egos, not at all healthy.
The classic definition of ego is “the mechanism of a person’s is to coordiante and guide action and awareness between the conscious and subconscious”. In other words, the ego is the CEO of the individual’s behavior giving rise to awareness and personal identity. It is not simply self esteem gone berserk.
As I think about this CEO for CEO’S I remember my personal experience with top leaders and their egos (and my own). An ego can get happy with itself and inflate and get a swelled head. I cringe remembering some of my own moments of when my ego got out of control.
A swelled head or ego almost always end up in embarassment or failure or loss of stature. Feels great at the time but afterward not so much.
An unmanaging ego can cause spontaneously hurtful words, revealing too much personal information and justify a temper tantrum
Without a helpful ego, top leaders reveal more about their unconscious than they know. But their organization knows and talks about it and puts a dent into leadership strength.
Worst case scenario of an ego run amuck is the “The Emperor Has On No Clothes” syndrome. The leader is unaware of her impact or skewed behavior and has no view of self, but the whole world does. This is a danger zone of poor ego management.
Thinking about leadership development, we need to grow CEO’s with goo management skill of their own ego. First of all, make awarenss of ego more overt as a skill.
The ego grows and develops as it:
bumps into new experience and learns from it
receives feedback from people about impact on others
has enough safety to reflect and self-evaluate
grows its own set of values and morals for common good
realizes that it is not the center of the universe
is able to stand on its own learning and decisions
know that it is in charge of intentional behavior in the world
is aware that other people have ego’s as well
That’s the start of CEO development when it comes to having a healhy ego. This is one of the trickier areas for those of us who do executive coaching. We need a healthy ego ourselves to enter this delicate, intimate area. This is one of the areas I support in my work of developing executive coaches.