Yes, you heard it! You need high ego to go high. I know you are uncomfortable with this sentence but you know it is true. The reason you are uncomfortable with this is because ego is misunderstood.
We all have egos and the more we have the more ambitious we are, and ambitious people go far. So what is ego?
Ego is the Latin word for "I."
In everyday usage, the ego represents a sense of self-importance (think: "He has such a big ego!) Having a healthy ego means we can maintain a healthy sense of self, but an imbalance can lead to problems, including excessive self-centeredness."
The ego is the person's sense of self-esteem and self-worth and without a massive those of it, it is very unlikely they will be claiming high prestige roles.
People with a healthy amount or a well-balanced ego contribute greatly to humanity just look at Sir David Attenborough, scientists, nurses, blue-collar workers, teachers, or social workers. It is not that they are not ambitious but their ambition is about progress in knowledge, expertise or bettering other people's lives. They think less about themselves than those with higher or unbalanced egos. It is not that they don't have self-worth but more that they don't think that they are worth more than others. They tend to do things for others rather than for themselves. They are the servant leaders when they get to leadership positions in corporations. They are the ones who think for others which doesn't always benefit them greatly.
They are the ones who want to do things properly and not just for the headline. They are the ones who like to make an impact with their work not so much focus on the money or the role. They are the ones making sure that decisions are ethical and that one group is not more favoured than the others. Here I am not talking about the woke, narcissist, social justice warriors!
Then you have those for whom ambition is about career or bank account growth, flashy cars, a cover photo in a magazine, a direct connection to the CEO or renting a villa in one of the affluent communities. For them, life is all about them or rather me, me, me, me.
Most (not all), want to have fame, money, or THE role. They believe that they deserve it because they are better than others. A big chunk of this group needs that for validation because their ego is not a healthy one. They don't have high self-esteem or worth and they think it will come from external sources so they go and get them. Their id, ego, and superego are in constant battle and nobody is winning.
Now there is nothing wrong with proving to yourself that you can get that job or make that money. We need that for self-esteem, but what happens after getting it matters.
What people do with their money, fame, or achievement is what shows whether their ego is unhealthy or healthy. And this is what we need to check when it comes to leaders because statistically speaking the vast majority of leaders will have high ego and narcissistic behaviour (they correlate). Expecting it otherwise is unrealistic for the reasons above.
So what do we do in leadership development when we have this statistic? Have we told leaders that? Have we probed into this? Have we put things in place that monitor and control such behaviour when we know it is present? Have we linked the prevalence of poor leadership, disengaged workforce to high ego and narcissism?
No we haven't done any of it. We rolled out servant leadership programs to those who are there to serve themselves.
Well, that's not going to work is it?
PS: I have seen professionals with healthy ego reaching high roles and breaking. Why? Because it is very ugly up there with all the egos.......
If you want to address your leaders let us know.