Triple Crown Leadership

Triple Crown Leadership

Your Ego Is Not Your Amigo

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Why do you want to lead?

All too often, the answer has breadcrumbs back to ego. The drivers may be disguised in other terms such as recognition, status, power, money, or competitiveness. But it ultimately comes back to ego.

Bob recalls an executive who worked with Washington politicians. The executive described the mentality he observed all too often as, not just wanting to defeat an opponent, but to destroy him, burn the body, and then salt the earth over the ashes so the opponent could never rise again. Frightening.

Looking at this, psychologists might find some underlying insecurity or inferiority complex, driving some people to extremes. Often, they resort to cutting ethical corners, believing such actions are necessary to get ahead.

The ability of the human mind to rationalize its behavior is virtually infinite, knowing no bounds in justifying its actions, especially when under pressure and when people think they can get away with it.

Leaders get to positions of authority after years of striving and are sometimes surrounded by people who wish to gain favor, so the leader hears how wonderful he or she is. The ego is seductive, the kiss of death to true leadership.

The ego is seductive,
the kiss of death to true leadership.


Of course, leaders need courage and confidence. Leaders often venture into the unknown where the fog of uncertainty and fears of humiliating failure conjure demons in one’s mind.

Confidence must be balanced with humility. We are all fallible. None of us has all the answers. Great leadership is a group performance, even within the organizational hierarchy, with a CEO, VPs, directors, and managers down the line. Great leadership ebbs and flows among many leaders depending on the circumstances and the people involved. That’s why we focus on leadership, not “The Leader.”

True leaders unleash other leaders throughout the organization. They learn to bite their own tongues, letting others lead to gain experience and realize their talent.

Such leadership is a monumental exercise in personal discipline and self-control. You need to get over yourself. As Robert Greenleaf said decades ago, “leaders serve.” They serve others, not their own ego.

Our friend, Chuck Wachendorfer, captured it well: “My ego is not my amigo.”

For too many leaders, their ego is their worst enemy.


Practical Applications:
1. Why do you want to lead?
2. Are you serving others or your own ego?
3. Do you have a small group of trusted people who will give you honest feedback when your ego is getting out of control?


Bob and Gregg Vanourek are authors of Triple Crown Leadership: Building Excellent, Ethical, and Enduring Organizations, based on interviews with leaders in 61 organizations in 11 countries.
Twitter: @TripleCrownLead


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2 thoughts on “Your Ego Is Not Your Amigo

  1. Gregg and Bob, your point about its “leadership” not the “leader” is spot on. A common mistake of new leaders is to think that they have all the answers. The great risk here is that they’re right and begin to believe no one in the organization is as smart as they are. This point of view often comes with grave consequences.

    Great leaders ask great questions and work with others to discover the answers. They, in essence develop the organization’s ability to think for itself. This takes more time upfront and resisting the temptation to give people the answer but ends up becoming a more effective process for sustained optimal performance.

    Great leaders also demonstrate a strong moral compass and behave consistent with the principles of integrity, responsibility, compassion and forgiveness; all important in growing a successful business for the long term. One of the observable behaviors of compassion is “actively caring about the needs of others”. The result of demonstrating that behavior is to create an environment of retention; a place where people want to give their best efforts because they feel cared about.

    Thanks for all your great work in developing leadership around the globe! After all, we learn and are influenced by what we observe and our behavior is observable by others. Therefore, by definition we are all leaders and followers regardless of our title.

    • Chuck, thanks for being the inspiration for this post and for your thoughtful comments. We couldn’t agree more. It’s not the leader’s job to be right all the time. Sometimes the leader is wrong. We need to focus on developing the capacity of others and treating them with respect and compassion, as you say. We can all learn from each other, contribute, and lead. Very well said! Thanks for all you do for leadership and the world.

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