Friday, October 7, 2016

when ego becomes a roadblock

Most people who achieve a leadership position do so because they are good at what they do - top salespeople get promoted to sales manager...the best teacher becomes the school principal...the high achieving VP becomes the next CEO.  People are promoted for their prior accomplishments, many of which become obsolete in the leadership role.  And of course, when one's prior accomplishments become obsolete, there is a sense of loss and a longing to return back to what one knew, loved, and for what one was rewarded.  Learning how to do things differently, learning and practicing new skills, and putting aside one's ego become some of the most difficult things for leaders.  This is where ego can become a roadblock.

The same can also be true for organizations.  Those companies and institutions who have been successful in the past can find it difficult to change and accept that what they were once recognized for is now a roadblock to future success.  Early innovators or adopters find that because they were ahead of the curve, and have seen unprecedented success because they were first in the game, often believe that they can just keep riding that wave, even if the wave is starting to lose strength.  The ability to re-innovate or re-adopt becomes hard if not impossible.

So how might those in leadership positions keep their organizations - and themselves - from letting ego become a roadblock?  Here are a few thoughts:
  • Have a group of trusted advisers who a) are not a part of your specific industry and/or b) came to the organization after the organization's source of pride was first implemented
  • Know that no good thing lasts forever, and understand that just when you think you have all the answers that is the time to start making changes
  • When the organization (or people within the organization) feels resistant to a new idea, begin to explore immediately why that is, understanding that ego might be driving a majority of that opinion
  • Always have a readily available list of organizations that are actually better than yours...and remember that they too could easily be insignificant next year
  • Remember what it felt like personally (and organizationally) to be an early adopter and the one who was recognized for success...and understand that to re-create that feeling will take laying aside what you currently do and begin something new
  • Consistently remind yourself and others around you that ego can be a roadblock, both for individuals and for organizations - and wonder out loud whether or not that has happened to you
The paradox of this topic is that everyone in a leadership role needs to have a positive and strong ego AND that same ego needs to be kept in check with the reality that pride often comes before the fall.  Whether one practices confident humility or humble confidence, those in leadership roles need to be on constant alert to not let their ego become a roadblock...both for themselves and for their institutions.

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