Are you leading or ego-ing?

by Carol Schillios, Schillios Consulting & Fabric of Life

As the leadership advisor to my credit union client’s executive team, one of my favorite roles is to observe and give feedback during group discussions. Recently during a heated debate I kept hearing the words “we can’t” and “that won’t work” and – gasp – “we’ve always done it that way”.

I felt myself becoming annoyed.  The flush of irritation crept up my neck. Before I could stop myself, I interrupted in a cantankerous tone, and blurted out: “Why is everything can’t?! Do you hear yourselves? You’re going on and on about what won’t work. Why don’t you focus on what you can do instead of being so negative?!

You could hear a pin drop. The air was electric and I just knew a bolt of lightening would crash through the roof. And guess whose head I desperately wanted the bolt to strike? Well, not exactly my head, but certainly my EGO!

Ego is our fabricated self, the person we become so other people will like us, admire us, and accept us. Eckhart Tolle describes Ego in his book A New Earth, saying the ego thrives on others’ attention, recognition and admiration. It wants to be noticed, to have its existence acknowledged.

The ego always comes from a place of fear; fear of not being admired, fear of losing power, fear of not being liked, or fear of making a mistake. Ego is the psyche’s trickster and is always hustling for more. It exploits situations to create praise for itself.

Want to become free of the ego? Be self-aware. Self-awareness and ego are incompatible. The human brain cannot rant and self-reflect at the same time. And that’s when the charlatan Ego takes over. I fell right into that insidious ego trap: Look at me. Look at me. I caught you all being negative. Why can’t you be positive like me and look at possibilities to solve your issue?

Ego takes over when you interrupt and are a poor listener. When you’re craving attention, it’s your ego. When you’re jealous, it’s your ego. When you take credit for others’ ideas, it’s your ego. When you fight to be right, it’s your ego. When you’re defensive in the face of truthful feedback, it’s your ego. When you demand respect, it’s your ego. When you feel superior to others, it’s your ego.

Here are 6 ways to let go of ego:

  1. Practice self-awareness: Acknowledge your bad behavior out loud; it builds credibility
  2. Ask and accept feedback from others: Without defensiveness.
  3. Listen Actively: Listen to those who challenge your views; practice curiosity
  4. Let go of control: Micro-managing implies mis-trust
  5. Acknowledge the impact of your actions: Include people your decisions impact in dialogues
  6. Give others credit: Express gratitude; thank those who helped you succeed; quit bragging

Overcoming the ego is hard work. In the electric silence after my rant, I woke up with a jolt. Damn. I gave away my power to that sordid ego trickster. With red-face humility, I admitted out loud: “well that was interesting…. I just did the very thing I always encourage you to avoid. Okay, let’s dissect what happened and how I behaved badly.

I love this team of executives. They give me absolutely no slack. One VP joked, “Give me a minute, Carol, I just need to call my doctor’s office and cancel my therapy session.”

Carol Schillios

Carol Schillios

Carol Schillios is a maverick change-maker. Her passion for credit unions spans 4 decades as a master trainer and keynote speaker at state, national and international events. She’s a ... Details