Ego imbalances can be rampant in leadership circles. You know who you are: the board member with a personal agenda; the coach on a power trip; the supervisor who speaks with two mouths and listens with one ear. Although you may not fit into one of these archetypes, there are times when all of us suffer from ego saturation. This is when our ego leads us to act in a way that is contrary to our highest values under the guise of self-protection and self-preservation.
When others try to hurt us, we sometimes pull out our ego shield to fend them off or hide. When they really hurt us, we may grasp our ego sword to poke at them or slice them down. As a leader, we must always think and act offensively, strategically, and holistically rather than reacting to the situation. Keep that shield and sword for emergencies only.
The ego can serve as a barrier to insulate, separate, and isolate us from the radiant energy of the universe and from that of other people. This can be a protective or destructive device depending on the circumstance. When our health or well-being is threatened, an ego-driven response keeps us safe. When our sense of self-righteousness is challenged, our ego severs relationships and natural life processes with the unintended outcome of further isolation and feelings of abandonment on both sides.
I tend to be a quiet, humble person. I am quite aware of this, and am equally aware of how other leaders may misinterpret my peaceful countenance. When I enter a meeting with other leaders with whom I only have an ancillary relationship, I know that some of them may be under the impression that I am weak, inexperienced, or unintelligent. I therefore tend to feel defensive when another leader says something to imply that my ideas are less valid or important than theirs. An ego-driven response in this situation might get my point across, but it would also make me look and feel selfish and insecure. Calmly explaining a thorough justification for my idea would instead reflect my true nature: that of a confident, compassionate, and collaborative community leader.
The ego sometimes masques our true feelings, values, beliefs, motivations, and ambitions. In the mental space where we navigate and negotiate the characteristics that distinguish us from others, who we truly are or ought to be can become confused when our ego is directing and controlling our thoughts. The ego defines us by making comparisons to, and judgments about, people we admire and despise; our soul understands and celebrates our individuality based on our personal experiences, character, thoughts, and actions. By transcending the ego and tapping into our souls, there are no externally defined limits on who we can be or what we can accomplish.
The space we subconsciously use to accommodate our ego is where we accumulate hurt, disappointment, and feelings of inadequacy. This clutter challenges our ability to lead with love and compassion by triggering ego-driven responses. Yet sometimes we choose to dwell in this dreary, horrible place. Perhaps it feels comfortable; familiar thought patterns, even those that are counterproductive or hurtful, are in the realm of what we know and have a sense of being able to control. The more time we spend in our ego space, the longer we yearn to be there to negate the negativity we have stockpiled – and off we go into the black hole of the downward spiral. Why not just bust out of your ego box and draw in the good directly?
By releasing our ego, we open up unlimited possibilities and more opportunities to find joy and unexpected surprises in ourselves, the people with whom we work, and the process of experiencing our vocation. When you become aware of your ego interfering in your interactions with others and interrupting your intuitive soulful response, imagine releasing it like a bird that will fly to a nearby tree branch where it can watch over you. Liberate your mind as your ego seeps out of your body and into the air; watch it transform into positive energy all around you. Imagine yourself walking about surrounded with sparkles and sweetly chirping birds; you are safe, whole, and vibrant. Remember that you can always pull out your ego sword and shield – just in case.