How Unmanaged Ego Becomes A Leader’s Worst Enemy


Occupying a leading position in an organization comes with serious risk of insularity. The higher a person stands in organizational ranks, they more that person is exposed to the risk of developing an inflated and eventually unmanaged ego. And as the ego grows larger, so does the risk of ending up in an insulated bubble. Failure to address such risk leads the person to lose touch with colleagues, put away from the real actions, get isolated from actual organizational culture, and have much less active communication with clients. Believe it or not, it is an uncommon issue with senior leaders. It is not even that difficult to see how this problem takes place.


As leaders move up in the organizational ranks, they acquire greater power with the position. They have the rights to make important decisions regarding the organization in general or individuals working for it. To some extent, a lot of employees rely on the leaders for survival. After all, being the forefront figure in any decision-making process is indeed the function of a leader. With such authority, employees have a strong tendency to please the leader; they listen more attentively to everything the leader to say, they agree more to opinions, and perhaps laugh louder at jokes that in reality are only marginally funny. In general they will do anything to make the leader happy to save their jobs, get a raise, and possibly earn some parts of the perks as well. These things do nothing but tickle the leader’s ego; the more it is tickled, the faster it grows.

It is called the hubris syndrome, defined as a disorder that can only develop in someone with possession of power, particularly if that power is associated with tremendous amount of success and held for a reasonably long period of time. There is actually nothing wrong with having an ego or any feeling or pride, but a leader must nurture it in the way to bring about organizational growth instead of personal benefit. Unmanaged ego is in fact a leader’s worst enemy for the following reasons:

·         Unchecked ego corrupts leader’s behavior: as the ego grows unchecked, it is easy to fall into the trap of narcissism. By nature, an organization is a group of people who work together to achieve the same goals. Although people are occupying different positions, the success of the organization is the result of collective effort. When leaders’ ego has grown too big, they are more likely to think that they alone are the architects of their achievements. This fallacy leads to the tendency to be rude, selfish, and sometimes to stand in the way of others from achieving the same level of success. The danger to organizational life is apparent in the face of setbacks and harsh criticisms coming from people outside of the bubble. Inflated ego prevents leaders from taking the criticisms with positive manner. It effectively builds a defensive wall that repels useful lessons potentially learned from failures.

·         Unmanaged ego creates bigger vulnerability: ego is a fragile. The bigger it gets, the easier it is to get hit. A leader with a massive ego always craves for approval or positive attention, and this tendency allows one to become easy target for manipulation. Such leader constantly wants to be seen as great, resourceful, clever, and generally perfect in all things. People who know this will take advantage of the situation by giving the all the right motivations to make the wrong decisions beneficial only to them regardless of the negative impact on the organization. The leader can no longer observe the circumstances with objectivity because everything has to be all about personal preference.

Finally inflated ego goes hand-in-hand with narcissism, which can only narrow down leader’s perspective and vision. An egotistical leader always looks for and utilizes only the information that confirms personal importance. In a work environment where objectivity based on facts is of the utmost importance to make every single decision, a leader with unmanaged ego is a dangerous person with all the power to drag everyone else to exhaustion and the brink organizational disaster.

Make good choices and have a great day! Only you get to choose how you feel about it!

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Dr. Paul Gerhardt is a skilled leadership and diversity trainer who builds customized workshops online or at your workplace. He is a tenured professor of management. He is a diversity and leadership well-respected and trusted trainer who helps organizations get amazing returns on their training investment. 

Dr. Gerhardt is the author of several publications available on, including Diversity at Work, The Diversity King; Leadership Lucy and the Leadership Handbook. Consider inviting Dr. Paul Gerhardt to do customized leadership or diversity training at your organization. Most organizations find that diversity and leadership training by the right trainer yields a significant instant return on investment. You can get your FREE COPY of the Leadership Handbook by clicking this link:

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