Ego: Our greatest asset, or biggest liability?

I wanted to recommend a great business book, Egonomics, that is now out in paperback.  It is written by two consultants, David Marcum and Steven Smith who do work in the area of executive development.


One of the keys point in the book is that an out of balance ego doesn’t feel dramatically different from an in-balance ego and that is why it trips up so many leaders.


In fact, you might not even notice at first—even though other people will.  That’s because ego takes your strengths and subtly changes them into close counterfeits.  Now everything seems a little self-serving and things that people appreciated about you—like being able to come up with an alternative viewpoint, being able to objectively compare your point of view to someone else’s, brainstorm good ideas, and seek and welcome feedback—things that make you a good team member—are subtly changed. 


To help leaders identify when their ego might be getting the best of them, the authors offer four warning signs.


  1. Being comparative—instead of focusing on being your best, you find yourself focusing instead on just being better than someone else. 
  2. Being defensive—instead of defending an idea, you find yourself making things personal.
  3. Showcasing your brilliance—you go beyond sharing good ideas to making your brilliance the center of attention. 
  4. Constantly seeking acceptance—you find yourself becoming overly concerned with what other people think.

 So how do the authors of Egonomics recommend rebalancing your ego?  Three things:


  1. Humility—don’t think less of yourself—just think about yourself less. 
  2. Curiosity—ask, instead of tell.
  3. Veracity—find truth-tellers in your life.  People who will be straight with you and tell you what you need to hear.

 Ego can be our greatest asset, or it can be our biggest liability. It’s all about keeping it in balance. 

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