Your Ego is a Liability in Management


The first challenge of management is not letting it go to your head. Get your ego out of the way and you have a chance to contribute to the development of your team.

Management Inflation

With promotion to a management role comes the first taste of status and power. With increased responsibilities, increased recognition and moving in new circles, it is common for a manager’s ego to begin to inflate. Status is a powerful human experience and shapes a lot of our behaviour and relationships in unthinking ways.

Doubts drop away. Listening declines. Opinions rule. The egocentric view of the manager becomes the reality of the team, whatever the actual facts.  Very quickly everyone is managing the manager.

Smart managers will catch their ego before it gets in the way too much. If you are lucky, your team will have the confidence to burst your bubble. Poor managers don’t notice, feel threatened or push on to defend their power. Management quickly becomes an all consuming ego exercise for them.

No Manager Knows Enough

Whatever the manager’s talents, they can succeed if they are egocentric. The work of the team is the team’s, not theirs. Scaling up the potential of the team is the challenge, not scaling up the manager’s expertise.

Even the most talented manager fails if they fail to leverage the knowledge and capabilities of the team. Micromanagement fails because managers just can’t know enough. The gap between their knowledge and the team’s reality will only demoralise and distract. Critically, they can’t know individuals capabilities and circumstances well enough. Imposing ego on others is debilitating for those people. You are leaving those people powerless in the moment to moment decision making that teams must manage together.

Managers can’t learn and adapt on behalf of other people. A manager wrapped in their own ego can’t learn and adapt at all.

Get Out of the Way and Enable Others

Great managers recognise that they work is the work of capable individuals and teams that learn and grow. Rather than focusing on their own agenda and power, these managers support employees to learn and to work together effectively. They aren’t dictators. They are enablers of higher performance.

These managers use questions, coaching, challenge and inspiration to enable employees to discover their own path to higher performance. They bring employees together into aligned, collaborative and creative teams to achieve more than any individual can on their own. Importantly, these managers take responsibility and create a safe environment for the team to learn and grow, whatever the external pressures. These aren’t easy tasks. Selflessness rarely is.

A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves. – Lao Tzu

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