Ego: the enemy of success in leadership teams


Ego is more common in leadership teams that you might realise. It is a significant factor in the prevention of success for a team. In some teams it is more overt than in others but it is surprising how often it rears its destructive head. How does ego play out in a leadership team? 

Conflict: 2 or more people with a different view, who each believe they are right and the other is wrong. Ego.

Non alignment: Individuals placing most emphasis on their part of the business to the detriment of other functions in the business. All pulling in different directions. Ego.

Teams dominated by one or more individuals, where one individual speaks over and above everyone else. Ego. 

Teams where individuals are too afraid to speak up. Ego. 

Competition amongst team members, the need to win over others, to beat other members of the team, to achieve more than their team members, to look better than others in the team. Ego. 

Ego gets in the way of alignment. Ego prevents success. Ego creates disharmony and conflict amongst the team. Ego pits individuals against each other. 

When we work with leadership teams, individuals get a realization of how their egos affect the dynamics in the team, they notice how different they are with each other when they allow their ego to fall away. How much more efficient, effective and successful they become. 

When ego is not in play, team members listen to each other, they look to understand each other’s point of view, they look to see and take account of the other’s perspective. In doing so the whole team sees a much wider perspective, they see new and better solutions and they come to decisions much more quickly. 

There’s a line in a song called Hymn for my Soul by Andy Fairweather-Low’s song Hymn for my Soul. It goes: “I saw myself today, didn’t like what I had to say. So right I could only be wrong….”  

Our ego needs to be right, our ego gets positional, our ego needs to win. When we know we’re right and everyone else is wrong, we know ego is in play. Ego wants its own way. Ego wants everyone else to do things its way. When you can’t hear or see other people’s perspectives ego is in play. 

Ego invites ego. When one person comes from ego, it invites other’s ego into play. Then we have two or more people who have to win, who know that they are right. They can’t both be right. Can they?  

Often when ego falls away, neither point of view is wrong – it’s just one sided. When both points of view are taken into account the bigger picture is seen. For example one person insists on rushing and getting the job done quickly, the other wants to slow down. The first person is concerned that the job is running up extra costs, the second person is worried that there’s a risk. Both perspectives are valid.   

Lack of ego in a team allows all views to be heard, bigger pictures to be seen, wiser decisions are made.  

A commonly held understanding is that all teams need to go through a storming phase in their development. We agree that it is common for teams to do so, however it is not a necessary phase. When a team is storming, ego is staking it’s claim, jostling for position, pushing it’s boundaries, exerting it’s place in the team. We’ve seen brand new teams skip the storming phase, and teams that have been storming for 18 months come out of the phase in 2 days. 

When the whole team understand the role ego is playing in the storm, then there is no need for it.  

Peter Hawkins Leadership Team research indicates that when effective teams meet it ‘raises the morale and energy of the team members”. When ego is out of the game people listen more to each other, they stop competing with each other, they look to understand each other, they’re more supportive of each other, they don’t judge or criticize each other and as a result they feel better after they have come together than they did before. Their morale and energy is raised. People hear wisdom rather than ego. And when all individuals in the team hear the quiet voice of wisdom and bring it together to the collective agenda then perspectives widen, the team gets greater clarity and new thinking and solutions open up. 

The voice of ego is very loud. The voice of wisdom, very quiet. There is wisdom in what everyone is saying, but ego doesn’t always allow it to be heard. When the noise of ego drops, the quiet voice of wisdom has room to surface.  


This entry was posted in Leadership , Article, State of Mind, tagged Connection, Interpersonal relationships, Inner voice, Leadership, Wisdom and posted on April 25, 2018

Back to Resources list
Registered Address: 62-64 Market Street, Ashby de la Zouch, Leicestershire, LE65 1AN
Company Number: 08609179