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Egoistic Leadership - How to Address It

Another common phrase I hear from organisations "You need to be careful because there are lots of egos here." Ok, when will we address egoistical behaviour instead of tiptoeing around it?

Ok, but how do we address it when people get really touchy? This is how I do it with leaders; I introduce them to their minds and explain to them what happens when they go off track and help them get back. Telling people to stop having egos is as useless as the 'ay' in 'okay.'

Let's look at how the mind operates and what is the role of the ego which we all must have. The secret is in an accurate self-perception; to develop that, you need constant feedback and self-reflection.

Freud said the human mind can be split into three levels of conscientiousness; Unconscious, Pre-Conscious, and Conscious. Under that umbrella are three personality structures: id, Ego, and Superego.

  • The id is like our inner impulse machine, jumping at and satisfying basic needs and desires without even asking our consciousness. Newborns practically have an all-id personality, only getting their ego and super-ego memberships later. That is why we say you act childish when you throw a tantrum in the office. The id is unconscious, focused on the satisfaction of basic needs, and operates on the pleasure principle and immediate gratification. The id's motto, as per Freud, is "If it feels awesome, just go for it!" No ifs, ands, or buts. When the id achieves its demands, we experience pleasure when it is denied, we experience ‘unpleasure’ or tension. (By the way, it is directly linked to your personality profile, and I can tell it from your assessment:-)))) sorry:-))

  • The superego incorporates the values and morals of society, which are learned from one’s parents and others. It comes in two parts: the conscience and the ideal self. Think of the conscience as your "inner nag" that scolds you for missteps. When the ego caves to the id's whims, the superego brings on guilt as a punishment. But hold on, the superego is a bit sneaky. It paints a glowing picture of what it wants you to be, known as the ego-ideal, rooted in early love bonds (often with a parent). The ideal self, or ego-ideal, is like a mental blueprint of how you should act and who you should be. It covers career dreams, how to treat others, and fitting into society's groove. The superego is mostly unconscious, operates on the morality principle (right and wrong, rules and morals), and motivates us to behave in a socially responsible and acceptable manner. That's why good parenting is super important. Parents are building the superego and a picture of who we are supposed to be, so be very careful with that. If you present your child with an unrealistic picture of who they are or can be, you are impacting everybody he/she will interact with in the future.

  • The Ego is who we think we are and has the ability to make decisions. It is the only part of the conscious personality. It’s what we are aware of when we think about ourselves and what we usually try to project toward others. It emerges to play referee (its role) between the wild id and the actual outside world, being the decision-maker of our personality. While the id is a whirlwind of chaos, the ego prefers to think things through, guided by the reality principle, the ego engineers practical ways to fulfil the id's wishes, often finding a middle ground or delaying gratification to dodge society's disapproval. The ego is conscious, based on reality, and the mediator between the id and the superego. However, since it makes decisions based on how we view ourselves, it is important that our self-view is not skewed! When we think more about ourselves than what is, we will make decisions based on that. This is when it leans more towards the id's wishes and ignores the superego. This is when we ask, "Who the hell do you think you are?" This is when we happily self-serve because we genuinely think we are better than others and we deserve it. Conversely, if you think less of who we are, others' id will take advantage of that even if their ego is in check.

When we talk about "Lots of egos," we are really saying it is self-centred behaviour (driven by the id) skewed by the unrealistic view of one's self. This is where self-awareness comes into the picture unfortunately, nobody is teaching anybody about that. Corporates complain about egos, but nobody wants to show their leaders' egos the mirror. You cannot tackle ego without confronting it. Painful? Yes, but necessary for the soul. A bad day for the ego is good for the soul and the organisation. Don't be afraid of it but do it properly! All you are doing is helping the person to develop a more realistic picture about themselves. And if they are not open to it, say goodbye or stop moaning about lots of egos.

So when did your ego last cave to your id's whims? When was the last time you thought you were better than others? Was it when you shouted at your employees when they questioned your decision? Was it when you dismissed a great idea just because it wasn't yours and your id felt threatened? Was it when you were nasty just to win that argument? Was it when you engaged in unethical practices to get the bonus? Or, was it when you rather stopped talking to your loved one than admit responsibility for something which would really bug your id or even your ideal self?

When I put across ego like that to leaders, they feel much better about themselves and open up. This is where the work on their behaviour starts.

This is why I study because I like to know what I am talking about when I am given the responsibility for people's development. I am not like those who just regurgitate boring copy-paste training programs, make you play games in the name of training or fall for misguided social narratives and preach them. I bring psychology to your leadership team and educate them based on science. Hahahhaa, I got you. This is my id wanting to gain an appreciation for years of studying human behaviour because I am very proud of my knowledge despite my superego saying, "Szilvia, stay humble people don't like arrogance". Ooopss, my ego failed to mediate. But has it? It also says that it is a factual statement and that I am better than those, therefore, cancel the feeling of guilt or shame issued by my superego, hence I don't feel bad saying it.

You see, that's how these three work together. They are funny and need monitoring because when the ego fails to balance the id and the superego, it can be a bad day for the organisation and everyone around us, including us.

PS: There is a lot more to it, but it is a good start to work with.

If you have an ego issue at your organisation, give me a shout, I am happy to come and help.

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