If you’ve ever worked for someone with a big ego, then you know how frustrating it can be. Nothing can be more debilitating in an organization. Leaders with out-of-control egos are responsible for huge losses in productivity and profits.

“Ego is the invisible line item on every company’s profit and loss statement.”—David Marcum and Steven Smith in egonomics: What Makes Ego Our Greatest Asset (or Most Expensive Liability), Fireside, 2007

In today’s culture that promotes self-worth and self-focus, egotism appears to be a growing trend that often gets rewarded. Leaders with out-sized egos are behind many of the struggles organizations have in keeping good people, doing the right thing, earning the trust of customers, and enjoying long-term prosperity.

In my experience working with many clients as their coach, egotism is easy for people to spot, but its effects are hard to understand, and solutions are challenging. A definition of an egotist is someone focused on themselves with little regard for others. Egotists have an unhealthy belief in their own importance.

Author Ryan Holiday, in his book, Ego Is the Enemy (Penguin, 2016), defines ego as a sense of superiority and certainty that exceeds the bounds of confidence and talent.

Egotists have a strong tendency to talk about themselves in a self-promoting fashion, coming across as arrogant and boastful with a grandiose sense of their own importance. Their inability to recognize the accomplishments of others leaves them profoundly self-promoting. At the same time, they are oversensitive to criticism which can quickly turn into narcissistic rage at any hint of insult.

Ego is what drives many leaders to excel in their fields, but it leaves them (and their organizations) vulnerable to failure. In a world of ambition with high rewards for success, big egos seem to come with the territory. But for leaders who want to build sustainable success, ego truly is the inner enemy.

What’s it like where you work? What’s been your experience working with people with too much ego? I’d love to hear from you. You can call me at 561-582-6060, let’s talk. And as always, I can be reached here or on LinkedIn.

  • SAlly

    Unfortunately, egotism is very frequently (aka almost always) aligned with narcissism. There is no cure for narcissism. What about a future column re strategies for working with/for egotists? (other than leave – LOL).

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