“The ego” – a positive or a negative feature? Is it a necessary ingredient, an essential to had by an exceptional leader?
We all seem to be able to spot a strong ego in others. Brain studies cannot point to the place in a brain where ego could exist, what could it be? Outside of a few technical papers ego, is still a very poorly defined concept. Animals don’t have it, for them it is only an awareness of self. Studies show that awareness of ‘self’ in humans is allocated to the left brain. Could this be the ‘true’ place for our ego?
A research showed that at least 99% of all human problems are caused by the false opinion of ‘self’. The most obvious and known falsities are about our perceptions of doing right to environmental, in economic and in political issues. There are others false opinion like the ones generated among and within families, different groups or societies, friends and enemies. But does a self-important demonstration of power or ego always give the result one expect by being egocentric? I’m positive that in most cases it does not.
The ego presents one of the biggest barriers for people to work together effectively. When people get caught up in their egos, it erodes their compatibility, emotions, reasoning. It blurs the understanding and cooperation. And we mostly get just the unproductive clash of egos.
How does an ego feature in martial arts? Ego in the practice or in the possible real fight just does not help. Contrary, it is an obstacle to ‘sensing’ what the opponent is coming with. You may learn to disregard your ego through practicing with partners like “pushing hands” (see blog: Pushing hands and Virtue) where, in order to give you sense and time to react, competitiveness should be suppressed as much as possible. The emphasis in this kind of practice is placed on using proper technique, as opposed to using a brute force or even an ego to accomplish a task.
General Colin Powell said “never let your ego get so close to your position that when your position goes, your ego goes with it”. In leadership ego almost equally damages both, interaction and communication process as well as the quality of decision-making.
When putting forward their ideas, comments, opinions one of leadership’s main mission is to help individuals feel psychologically safe around them and other team members. It is exactly the time when leaders must encourage exploration rather than stop or block it. Great leaders know that overusing their ego would lead to counterproductive results. Therefore, exceptional leaders have long ago learned to carefully pick their battles in meeting room to allow debate to flourish. And this is the only route leading to better team decisions.