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Ego and Leadership: Leaders, Put Your Egos Aside for the New Year!

It is time to separate ego from leadership and be honest with ourselves so we can begin the era of the Great Retention

Every new year, many leaders set goals for their teams and themselves. It is a normal practice proven to keep most people focused and it leads to better year over year outcomes. Goal setting should always start with a reflection on what has happened in the past, where you want to go in the future, and what needs to happen for you to get to where you want to go.

Create a goal to address your ego

If you have not taken the time to goal set—then DO IT! What are you waiting for? Even if the goal is not achieved, you are so much better off setting a goal than not. TRUST ME! This year, considering the Great Resignation, I encourage any person who is a leader to create a goal around their egos.

How to recognize if you are a bad leader

As we know, people usually stay at their jobs because of their leaders, and/or when there are clear career opportunities for them. There are millions of self-help books and ted talks about how to be an effective, wonderful, and empathic leader. So, why are so many leaders failing at it (as evidenced by the Great Resignation)?

I believe it is because many of us, leaders, struggle to recognize when we are the ones causing problems for our employees! Think about it—we all have blind spots, and we have all worked with or for someone who was a bad leader but had no idea. I have thought many times, “How could they not know the negative impact they create for their teams?” But have I ever wondered which behaviors I may have that negatively impact my team?

Unfortunately, this is not a black and white issue… you are not either good or bad. You are both! We are all made up of good and bad leadership qualities, and the best thing we can do is continually develop our good qualities as well as address and change our bad ones.

The truth of the matter is that we cannot play around with this anymore—people are leaving bad working environments in mass groups. We can either keep leading the same way as the Great Resignation rages on OR we can have an honest look at how we are leading others and begin to build the era of the Great Retention.

Overcoming your ego in leadership

The fact of the matter is… we are human, we have egos, we can get our feelings hurt, and that does impact how we work and lead other people. More often than not—bad leadership is born from a person in leadership who is feeling insecure, or hurt, or rushed, or burnt out. These feelings are usually accompanied with shame, which is something that we often try our hardest to hide from. In her famous Ted Talk The Power of Vulnerability, Brené Brown discusses her research on this topic. Shame is an emotion every human feels and experiences, yet most are afraid to express it. Instead, we hide behind addictions—and not just the obvious ones. For many of us leaders, the addictions to mask our feelings look more like “Type A” personality traits. The need to control your environment and be perfect in your work. We think if everything is perfect then we will be happy.

Bad leadership is born from a person in leadership who is feeling insecure, or hurt, or rushed, or burnt out. These feelings are usually accompanied with shame, which is something that we often try our hardest to hide from.

I recommend you watch the talk if you have not yet, but for the purposes of this blog I suggest that your goal as a leader is to face your shame head on. Be your authentic self. Become more vulnerable. Leave your ego behind. According to Brown and her research, this will lead to deeper connections with yourself and your team. This acknowledgement of your humanity will make you more open to seeing the humanity in each person in your team. It creates an opportunity to develop purpose, innovation, and a culture of trust.

But this is much easier said than done! Overcoming a lifetime of hiding from shame takes years of practice (and probably some therapy). So how can we build towards the Great Retention now?

An ego goal to get you started

There are a few simple intentions I plan to employ this year to help me grow as a leader and work towards dismantling my ego. I believe they would be helpful for any leader on this journey:

  • Patience: Acknowledging that I am not perfect, and that is ok. Creating space for others to not be perfect, whether they report to me, work as a peer alongside me, or is a leader above me. We all have good and bad traits, and I plan to practice intentional patience for all of it.

    If I am insecure, rushed, hurt, or burnt out, then I will not pretend I am not. Rather I will acknowledge it and create patience for those normal feelings. This will help make sure that those feelings do not come out in other unintended ways that could negatively impact those around me.

  • Acceptance: As much as I LOVE control… patience will allow me to accept what I cannot control. And truthfully one of the only things I can control is how I react to what is happening. Acceptance is not an admittance to defeat or a lesser life, rather this is a chance to truly grasp the opportunities that exist in front of me and my team.

    Acceptance is to look at who I am—both the good and the bad—and to understand that those parts of me coexist. I can work towards growing the good and shrinking the bad, but only if I first acknowledge and accept those qualities exist.

  • Gratitude: I am incredibly ambitious—both for myself, my team, and the company I work for. However, in my ambition I can often overlook the incredible achievements and life in front of me. I will most likely never stop wanting to improve and progress forward, but through patience and acceptance I will have more space to also practice gratitude.

    The combination of patience and acceptance gives us clarity to see the true opportunities for growth and connection that already exist… leading to a more purpose driven approach overall.

Ego is the biggest enemy of leadership. These three simple intentions can help us leaders learn how to recognize, acknowledge, and put aside our egos in 2022. We can grow in our vulnerability as we create more connected, trusting, and purposeful work environments for our employees… transforming the Great Resignation into the Great Retention!

 

For more information on how SHL can help you grow a leadership team to build the Great Retention, contact us today.

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Author

Kristina Iniguez

Kristina Iniguez is the Head of Brand, PR, and External Communication at SHL. She has a Master’s degree in Social Work and ten years of experience leading and developing teams across public, private, and non-profit organizations. She is a creative visionary and strategist who utilizes careful listening and open collaboration to engage audiences in mission-centric organizations. She utilizes relationship-based techniques, like human-centered design, to build communication platforms that reach, educate, and engage key stakeholders. She is passionate about talent development because she believes that people are any organization's greatest asset. The more an organization holistically invests in its employees—the more they will succeed!

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