Whether it is employee disengagement, lowered morale, increased turnover, or decreased motivation, the effects of falling into the Ego Traps are real and costly. At best, leaders who chronically fall into them irritate their people, eat away at their own credibility, and make life difficult for followers. At worst, they may sabotage their odds of success and whittle down the performance potential of their people. Corporate scandals and PR issues are also common symptoms of ego run amuck, whether due to the kind of poor judgment that says skinny dipping at a company event is okay (Ego Trap 6) or the release of a harmful product to consumers when there aren’t enough people on the team to challenge corporate practices (Ego Trap 3).
No one ever said executive leadership would be easy. Because of the nature of executives’ work, they are actually set up to fall into one or more of the eight Ego Traps, whether because the burden of power that comes with the executive territory or the natural push and pull dynamics between leader and followers.
Perhaps it’s the fact that there are very few individuals above to provide complete honesty compared to the hoards below whose primary desire is to please those above them. Or perhaps it’s the fact that you have so much power it’s easy to stop worrying about what other people think. Either way, there will often be a sort of power bubble around you, which makes it easy to slip into “ego mode” and lose touch with how others view you. This is not a matter of being good or bad—it just seems to be inherent in the position.
The higher you go, the more likely you are to face the need to up your professional game to meet ever stiffer leadership challenges along the way. Frankly, if the climb was easy, everyone would take a shot at the C-Suite or at starting their own business. But, the herd naturally thins as the terrain becomes tougher to navigate: the Ego Traps doing their evolutionary work.
Interestingly, as people grow in their careers, they are likely to shift along an ego continuum. Usually it starts with the confidently high ego of a strong individual contributor. That, and some skill, helps get a talented person promoted. Then, by the time an individual graduates to middle management, ego goes way down in favor of EQ. In fact, research by TalentSmart has revealed that, in most organizations, those with the highest EQ are middle managers. Then by the time individuals reach the top, the ego bounces back up again to challenge your leadership effectiveness for all the reasons I have stated in these articles. Fortunately, by becoming conscious of your particular Ego Traps and then practicing recognizing, reading, and responding, you can overcome these challenges and bring your EQ back into full play.