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June 19, 2012 / mike54martin

Big Egos Big Problems

In their book “Egonomics: What Makes Ego Our Greatest Asset (or Most Expensive Liability)” David Marcum and Steven Smith outline many of the reasons why the egos of top corporate leaders propel them and their organizations to the top. But like in the rest of life ego is a double-edged sword and Marcum and Smith’s studies showed that 53% of business people estimated that their CEO’s ego cost their company 6 to 15 percent of annual revenue and 21% said that this cost ranged from 16 to 20 percent. If true, those are incredible numbers. And what that ultimately says is that while a healthy ego is often an advantage in business too much ego can turn into a liability.

So how do successful business leaders best manage their ego to keep it on the positive side of the ledger? Some become master delegators and prefer to allow their subordinates to take the credit for corporate success. They also try and maintain a level of openness to new ideas and new people. That not only keeps their own ideas fresh but makes them realize that they don’t have all the answers. Finally they are usually single-minded about the truth. They practice a steady and habitual pursuit of the truth. And that means all of the truth. Not just the parts they like, but also the truths that don’t match their given path or agenda.

Those are three of the main characteristics of leaders whose ego is not getting in the way of their own or their corporate success. What about the other side of the ledger? How do we spot an ego-driven corporate leader? The gold faucets in their private washroom might be a give-away along with their desire to have their portrait in every corporate office. But often the signs are slightly more subtle.

When ego is out of control in the corporate boardroom there is usually a reluctance to delegate, a mostly negative reaction to employee suggestions, and a need for the top dog to take all of the biscuits when there is success and the run and hide when things go wrong. Ego can also be a major player when the CEO is ultra-defensive (even when they don’t need to be), they constantly compare themselves to others and they seem to crave acceptance and recognition from others.

The good news is according to Marcum and Smith is that ego can be restrained and turned into positive energy by focusing on three deep but simple concepts: Humility, Curiosity and Veracity. Simple because humility is not thinking less of yourself, just thinking of your self less often. Curiosity is just being open to another view of things and veracity is just a long word for telling and seeking the truth.

So let your ego soar like a kite. Just make sure to keep a tight grip on the handle.

This post first appeared on my blog at

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