How to get Leaders past their Egos

November 5, 2016 Chris Pearse

This is a question posed in response to my previous article entitled EGO – the biggest barrier to success.

The question itself is of great interest and arguably more valuable than the answer. But I will confine myself to a few concise thoughts that may be helpful:

Firstly here are some observations to set the scene:

  • We all have an ego – it’s hard to operate without one (so I’m told)
  • Some egos seem to interfere with behaviour more than others
  • Ego-based behaviour generally results in pain of one sort or another
  • The ego can fight back if threatened
  • Egos are very good at disguising themselves and are always right

So, to get someone ‘past’ their Ego is a tough challenge, perhaps impossible. Only they can do that and they will have to want to do it. The moving past may be accompanied with the pain of apparently leaving part of themselves behind to perish – often followed by a huge sense of relief and amazement that they’d held on to it for so long. The act of forgiving someone is not dissimilar to this process.

We can’t do it for them – and if we try, that’s just our ego being superior to theirs.

All we can do is support the process with no attachment to an outcome or resolution. Egos love to be responsible for a solution!

So, assuming that the client is feeling pain and wants change, I manoeuvre them into a reflective space by asking questions from different perspectives, suspending any sense of judgement. Then I get the client to look inward and describe the pain that they are feeling. You may be able to spot that the pain is ultimately associated with an idea they hold about themselves (a fragment of ego) and nothing to do with the external circumstances which just reflect the idea back at them. If they spot that too, then the situation, whilst not necessarily resolved, can never be the same again.

The fearful symmetry here is that just as the client shines an internal light to see what is really going on, so we have to brighten our own light to ensure we don’t get ensnared by an urge to fix the client’s dysfunction or a false sense of responsibility for the outcome.

That would be just more ego to deal with!