Ethics and Ego in Management

Greg Elsey

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Managers used to be encouraged to be tough, thick skinned and egotistical. Many would rule with an iron fist and an unapproachable demeanour. Their word was gospel. Since those times, we’ve learned that a more egalitarian approach can benefit everyone. One issue that can come up for some managers now is how to retain authority over staff while practicing a non-authoritative attitude. If you find your managers or yourself struggling with this, I have good news for you; with some coaching, you can be the person everybody wants to follow.

Over the years, I’ve met some truly talented managers who were soft-spoken, low-key, and introverted. I’ve also had the pleasure of working with successful managers who were gregarious, loquacious and extroverted. Each effective leader had one thing in common, and that was a strong personality that functioned without excessive ego.

They all had a good understanding of their strengths and personal challenges because they were scrupulously honest with themselves.

Ethics and ego go hand in hand. Maybe not an obvious match, but in my experience, one speaks to the other. A manager needs an ethical attitude towards decision-making in the workplace and an ego under control. When a manager acts as though their opinions are law, staff know and trust is eroded. A manager requires a strong personality to succeed. When I say a strong personality I’m not talking about aggression, but rather strength of character, a strong sense of the self, and the ability to acknowledge that there’s a difference between your own preferences and the steadfast rules of the jobs you oversee. Differentiate between the two so that you’re able to make good choices, and you will be able to resist the urge to act as though a personal preference is a hard and fast rule.

Egotistical management is a habit, and can therefore be tracked and tamed. The first step is awareness, intentionally taking notice how you make decisions on the fly, how you make non-essential choices. These are the times that ego shows up the most. When we’re on the back foot. When we’re in a hurry.

In order to become aware of your ego in action, you must start the day with a solid determination to see in yourself what you’ve been ignoring. You’re not looking for an inner beast who is determined to undermine and control everyone and everything. You’re wanting to stop for a moment, each time you make a decision, and do a quick assessment. Ask yourself how you came to the decision you just made. Your answer will be one of just a few possibilities; you’re following company policy, you know this is the best solution from previous experience, or you’re reacting from a place of ego. It’s not as time-consuming as it sounds because at this stage, you’re only raising your awareness, you’re not trying to do things differently.

You might begin to notice that your ego takes charge when dealing with certain people or certain situations, and not others. This tells you something already, it says that there is something about your relationship with these people, these situations that diverts you from professional experience and company policy straight into your ego. This is valuable information.

Once you start practicing awareness of ego, you’ll soon be doing it automatically. So, what comes next? What do you do if you discover that ego is impacting your management style in a way that’s not helpful, useful, productive? The best way forward is through a step-by-step program that keeps you accountable, while respecting your existing strengths. I can coach you until your awareness of ego becomes second nature, caught before you ever act. I can give you the tools to turn awareness into positive action, and I can take you further, into a place where you look forward to going to work every day. There’s nothing more powerful than to feel in control. There’s nothing more satisfying than to be respected by the people you manage.

If you are ready for change, call me for a chat.

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