Kelly Tanner, Ph.D., RDH

A leader’s job, at its core, is to inspire and facilitate the best performance from their team. Though management styles and strategies vary widely, removing one’s ego from the process is essential to success. Ego, the Latin word for “I,” involves a sense of self-importance that can slow personal growth and negatively impact interactions. Protecting this sense of self is at the root of many common leadership mistakes that invariably result in employee disengagement, lowered morale, increased turnover, and decreased motivation. The tips below identify—and examine how to avoid—a number of these “ego traps.” 

  1. Accept Feedback
    Listening to and learning from critical feedback is one of the most difficult tasks for most individuals, including leaders. Often, the natural reaction is to protect one’s ego by rejecting anything uncomplimentary. To avoid this classic ego trap, a good leader will keep their focus on the larger goal—the success of their team, which includes their own success. Such leaders understand that refining their management style to best help their team depends on the insights they gain from constructive feedback. 

  2. Mix It Up
    When building a team, some leaders mistakenly recruit only those who reaffirm their point of view. This common ego trap results in limited input and two-dimensional thinking. As a result, it creates blind spots that prevent a leader from anticipating challenges and projecting confidence in their vision for the future. Good leaders see strength, vision, and passion in candidates who challenge their views and offer new ways of addressing projects.

  3. Let Go of Control
    A leader who gets overly involved in the minutia of their subordinates’ work may believe they are “helping.” In fact, such micro-managing is an ego trap that boosts the manager’s sense of control at the expense of their employees’ creativity and vision. By relinquishing control, a good leader promotes a sense of trust in their team members and fosters a culture of respect within their team. 

  4. Understand the Impact of Decisions
    When leaders put their own needs—their ego—ahead of the needs of their team, they become blind to the impact of their decisions on their team members. Shifting priorities, deviations from set goals, and last-minute scheduling changes are all common examples of this ego trap in action. These behaviors can cause friction and dissatisfaction among the team. To avoid this trap, a good leader remains connected with the organizational infrastructure and team objectives on a daily basis and continually considers how their decisions affect others. 

  5. Don’t Forget What It’s Like
    It can be all too easy for a leader to become so focused on their own priorities that they disconnect from their team members, particularly when working remotely. Good leaders stay rooted in their formative experiences. They remember what it was like to work their way up the organization and use this understanding to effectively communicate and interact with their teams. Remember that empathy—putting oneself in another’s shoes—is the antithesis of ego.

  6. Avoid Relapse
    One of the most pernicious ego traps occurs when a leader who has become self-aware, empathetic, and self-disciplined slips back into the high-ego behaviors of their past. This trap is particularly destructive because, by reverting to their old ways, such leaders risk losing their employees’ trust. Always remember that building a productive team takes time and effort, but sustaining this success takes continual vigilance, reflection, and, to return to our first tip, acceptance of feedback. When leaders stay focused on such continual improvement, their teams thrive.  

For more tips on how to boost effective leadership, I invite you to listen to my 2-part conversation with Jenn Lalli, Encompass’s Senior Director of Business Development and Marketing, on the Encompass Insider podcast. 

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A certified speaker, trainer, and coach, Kelly Tanner, Ph.D., offers workshops, seminars, keynote speaking engagements, and coaching sessions designed to aid in the personal and professional growth of individuals and groups. Through the study and practical application of proven leadership methods, she helps individuals, teams, and organizations break through to achieve not only their immediate goals but also their full potential. For information on services and upcoming events, please visit www.kellytannerleadership.com/.

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