Check Your Ego at The Door

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You’ve heard that the more power and authority you have, the less of it you should show or use. Only use it when you absolutely have too. Too many people let power and authority go straight to their heads and it ends up sabotaging all their support. I’ve also seen people who get increasingly humble as the amount of authority comes their way, and it increases the support that they receive. Either way that affect is called your ego, and it’s how you handle your ego which determines the support that you receive. Most people who never have authority and suddenly acquire it don’t know how to handle it properly. We have all heard of people like George Zimmerman over stepping their rights, and CEO’s like Travis Kalanick, formerly of Uber, acting outlandishly, and it’s all a result of large ego’s. Everyone has an ego but the best way to keep the support around you is to check it at the door. 

In high school I will be the first to admit that I let all my success in sports develop into a huge ego. At the time, I didn’t know any better and I explained it through the definition of confidence. Wrong. My confidence was actually cockiness and it led to a massive ego. What I didn’t realize was that my ego was driving people close to me away and ruining opportunities for myself in the future.

Perspective and perception are powerful things and most people develop those about you at a young age. We can all remember who the pot head was in high school, or the most popular girl, or the jock, and how hard is it to change your perspective of that person when you see them 10 or 15 years later? Even if they are a completely different person later in life, your perception of them largely stays the same. 

Now I’m much later in life, and I am a much different person than I was in high school. But living in the same area as my high school days has led me to conclude that people still have the same perception of me as back then. It’s a hard thing to break, no matter what your successes in life are. I was a wild card, who would accept any challenge of anything and dated as many girls as possible, not really caring about their feelings. Repercussions later in life were the last thing on my mind. During this time my support was masked by fake friends all around me. People who only wanted to be around me because I was popular. This gave me a false sense of support and it made me believe that my cockiness was attracting other people, when it wasn’t.

Now I understand that they were only hanging around me for selfish reasons, to help their own social status. And as quickly as high school ended was as quickly as those friendships ended also. As soon as I didn’t have any social status to offer them, they didn’t have any support to offer me. My brashness ended up driving away relationship opportunities later in life and I don’t blame them. How could you trust someone who was so egotistical as a youth? How could you expect someone to change so much from then? I lost friends, I lost relationship opportunities and I lost a lot of support. Lesson learned. 

Fast forward 10 years and I’m a much wiser person, but I’ve seen people around me who still haven’t figured it out. In business, any large corporation has a balance between the service side and the sales side. It’s a mutual balance but ultimately the service side has the final say even though they are at the mercy of the accounts that the sales team sells. Not every sold account is perfect, and neither is every service necessarily. But it’s balancing the relationships between the customers and the sales reps that keeps the process rolling.

However, I’ve seen both sides take advantage of the other and in both situations and it leads to bad business. It’s healthy to keep both parties in check. If the sales team gets too much control and ego, it doesn’t provide the service side much leverage and they get taken advantage of. This leads to bad accounts and customers with unrealistic expectations, not fair to the service side who is constantly trying to meet those demands. On the flip side, I’ve seen the service side abuse their authority and become too critical or authoritative which ends up losing the support of the sales. This leads to no new accounts being sold and ultimately a dying business. Too much ego on either side makes it easy for business relationships to turn personal and that only leads to much bigger problems. Can’t we all just get along?! Life is about compromising. Remain totally objective in business and sacrifice some of your ego, it will help you keep your support. Remember that you are trying to balance the opposite party’s ego just as much as your own. It’s good for business.

Even in sports, egos can get in the way of support and success. Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neil. A perfect example of how the more of an ego that you have, the less support that you will receive. Three championships later, the egos within both players became so great that they couldn’t both fit in the same room. They both wanted all the credit and couldn’t share the spotlight. What could have been the greatest dynasty in NBA history, turned into a bad breakup. Shaq went on to win another championship in Miami and Kobe won more in LA, but just imagine what they could have achieved together?! More egos led to less support.

One of the best things about the New England Patriots under Bill Belichick is that he makes players check their egos at the door. The same holds true for the San Antonio Spurs under Greg Popovich. Both coaches have created cultures that are based around a system and not individual players. They require leaving your personal ego at the door. That’s why those two teams are the most well-run systems in their respective sports, and they both produce the most consistent winning results. If Tom Brady is replaceable on the New England Patriots, I’m pretty sure you are replaceable at your job, whoever you are. Leave your ego at the door.

The power of not letting power and authority go to your head in politics. Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King Jr. Both amazing individuals achieved things not through force or authoritative nature, but by winning over the influence of the people. They let their influence over the people serve their purposes, not by demanding things from a position of power.

Mandela served 27 years in prison before being released. Once he was out of prison, he organized a general election for the presidency in which he won. Once in power, instead of letting his ego take over and changing everything to his own beliefs and systems, he retained his predecessor’s liberal framework despite his own socialist beliefs. He chose negotiations instead of warfare and by then end of his only presidential term, he was influencing more people to be like himself. Mandela was an activist in a nonviolent way and is now heralded as an icon of democracy and social justice. In 1993, Mandela was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work for the peaceful termination of the apartheid regime and for laying the foundations for a new democratic South Africa.

Similarly, Martin Luther King Jr. led by nonviolent initiatives and influence. By the late 1960’s, King had a small army that supported his beliefs. Instead of leading those people in a violent way to achieve what he believed was social justice, he led through nonviolent protests such as the Montgomery bus boycott, the 1963 March on Washington, the 1965 Selma to Montgomery marches and many others. In 1964 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for combating racial inequality through nonviolent resistance.

Both Mandela and King Jr. could have had much different legacies if they would have let their egos go in the wrong direction. They wouldn’t be remembered and respected the way that they are today. They both gained more support through nonviolent means and it ended up helping them both achieve more than if they would have chosen violent ones. Today we honor both for their achievements and support progress today through those same ways. The opposite was true for some other former leaders, such as Hitler who led through violent means. How do we think of Hitler now? We all support Mandela and King Jr. and we all use Hitler as a learning lesson. Mandela and King Jr continue to have all the support and Hitler lost his support as soon as he lost the war. Even in politics, check your ego at the door or it will result in losing your support.

Don’t be the kind of person who lets authority go to your head. Although we all strive to be the boss and have the power, once you acquire it, it’s not worth showing. In fact, the more that you show, the more likely that you are to lose it. Lead by example. A boss tells someone to do something, leader influences them to do it. It’s a big difference and it’s the difference of an ego. Check yours at the door.