While we all wrestle with ego, I am someone who feeds on being acknowledged for my achievement and performance. As such, image has always been very important to me.
Working FBI undercover assignments was a natural transition for me because my ego thrived on changing my image so I could pick and choose my special mask of success.
As with many things, moderation is important to ego. Too much ego can be detrimental to your success. Left unchecked ego can spiral out of control and become self-centered.
Successful leaders use mental strength to rein in their ego and keep it from alienating those around them. They pick and choose when to let their ego benefit their performance and use it—just enough, at the right moments, to make a difference.
Here are four reasons successful leaders need a healthy ego:
1. IT DRIVES THEM TO SUCCEED
Ego is essential to success because it will drive you to always be your best.
Psychiatrist Michael Maccoby provided an insightful analysis of people who are driven by ego and image in his book, The Gamesman. Here is an excerpt:
They are cooperative but competitive; detached and playful but compulsively driven to succeed. Their main goal is to be known as a winner and their deepest fear is to be labeled a loser.”
Does this describe you or someone you know?
“So, Jeremiah, if you’re worn out in this footrace with men, what makes you think you can race against horses? If you can’t keep your wits during times of calm, what’s going to happen when trouble breaks loose?”—Jeremiah 12:5, The Message
2. THEIR INSPIRATION IS CONTAGIOUS
Ego is essential to success because it leads to truly believe that everything you do is important.
When ego is influencing your emotions, behavior, and thinking, you will be incredibly enthusiastic about ideas that are important to you. Team members will walk away from a conversation with you saying, “Wow, this is exciting—what an opportunity!”
If one mark of leadership is the ability to generate enthusiasm about goals or ideas, then your ego can be incredibly helpful to you.
3. PERFORMANCE ALWAYS ROCKS
Ego is essential for success because it motivates you to perform.
This means not only working hard yourself, but finding ways to genuinely motivate others around you.
The techniques that are commonly used are flattery, forming strategic alliances (my personal favorite), trading favors, and—manipulation. You may not feel comfortable owning up to using manipulation as a form of motivation, but let’s face it—influencing people to perform by pushing their buttons is effective leadership.
As we know, manipulation can be used in negative ways, but if we are pushing people toward a goal that will benefit them as well as you, your performance will rock.
4. IT’S NOT WHAT YOU DO, IT’S HOW YOU LOOK DOING IT
Ego is essential to success because it understands how image influences the way others perceive you.
People have an image of what a successful FBI Agent should look like. Well-pressed suit, white shirt, athletic—and male. Nothing succeeds like the appearance of success.
As a female FBI agent, I quickly learned that a successful image was just as important for me as it was for my male counterparts. My ego became caught up in how my image would impact my success.
Fair or not, perception is reality—this is why slick advertisements work so well. The ego learns early that one of the most effective ways to impress others is by looking good while performing to get attention and acknowledgement.
At a young age, I instinctively knew that ego, image, and success were about more than clothes. I learned to dress up my personality as well because I wanted to do whatever it took to succeed.
Ego is essential to our success only if we use mental toughness to control, use, and apply it so that it benefits our performance as leaders.
When has your ego been essential in your success?
© 2014 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.
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