EQ, or Emotional Quotient, is the natural enemy of Ego. Where the Ego is all about yourself, EQ is all about recognizing others. It would surprise almost no one to point out that to many people, CEO actually stands for Chief Ego Officer; a recognition of the fact that many of the top CEO’s can be frequent violators of the “Don’t be an A*Hole” rule. Especially after the 2008 financial crisis and resulting recession, the accepted vision of business leader is less than flattering. If you doubt it, check out either Wolf of Wall Street or The Big Short for examples of business leaders with a bit too much ego in their tank. Granted The Big Short also demonstrates that ego isn’t necessary a bad thing by itself, but it does bring challenges to the characters who suffer from it, as well as those who work with them.
Jen Shirkani, an EQ speaker and author, wrote Ego vs. EQ as the antidote to business leaders and others who suffer from too much ego, which she points out is not only dangerous to them, but dangerous to the business as well. In this 2014 USA Best Book Award nominated work, Shirkani lays out eight ego traps which commonly strike CEO’s and business leaders:
- Ignoring feedback you don’t like.
Someone tries to tell you that you are too demanding, overbearing or some other negative trait, and you immediately dismiss it as ridiculous. Or you are simply not getting negative feedback, and that means that you are a good leader.
- Believing your technical skills are enough.
How many SME’s do you know who suffer from this? It’s not your fault that you are surrounded by idiots who don’t understand the technical side of the business after all. Being a leader means that I’m the best at the hard technical skills…until and unless someone else can compete on that playing field I am top dog.
- Only surrounding yourself with people just like you.
Being challenged is difficult, and to avoid this you simply hire and promote people who are like you. After all, being able to work with the person is key, and I see many shades of myself at that age…why would I want to bring a disrupter into the fold?
- Not letting go of control.
Related to trap #2, you know that you need to let your staff do their jobs…but they aren’t doing them right! It’s crucial that this project is completed correctly and on budget, and the only way to assure that is to do it yourself.
- Being blind to your downstream impact.
Read a great magazine article about the newest fad sweeping your industry? We need to implement this yesterday! It doesn’t matter if we were in the middle of another project, we need to drop that and pivot to this project. What’s wrong with being flexible?
- Underestimating how much you are being watched.
You think “I am the boss…I’ve earned this latte from Starbucks that caused me to be 20 minutes late at the office. And I know I am in the middle of an important meeting, but I need to check my phone to see if an even more important email came through. No one will notice…”
- Losing touch with your frontline experience.
Employees expressing concern about their bonuses? Perfect time to demonstrate your empathy! “I know that you are concerned about the status of your bonus, so am I! After all, I have a custom ordered BMW sitting on the lot I can’t pick up until I get my bonus, so I know how you feel!”
- Relapsing back to your old ways.
The most dangerous of the traps, this occurs when a leader has fallen into one of the previous traps, made positive changes and then let the old, bad behavior come back.
All of us have known people like this; maybe you’ve even had the misfortune to work for someone like this. If you do, do yourself and them a favor and pick up a copy of Ego vs. EQ for them to read through. Shirkani has got excellent tips for avoiding all eight of these ego traps, and strengthening your EQ to prevent you from falling into them again. And remember you don’t have to be a “leader” by title to benefit from these lessons; those who are aspiring to leadership positions, or even those who are perfectly happy where they are, can fall into these traps just as easily. This book contains great lessons for everyone in all walks of life!