Ego and collaboration: finding the sweet-spot

Ego: a person's sense of self-esteem or self-importance.

Dictionary online

Because of its phantom nature, and despite elaborate defence mechanisms, the ego is very vulnerable and insecure, and it sees itself as constantly under threat. This, by the way, is the case even if the ego is outwardly very confident.

Eckhart Tolle


Leadership is not a popularity contest; it's about leaving your ego at the door. The name of the game is to lead without a title.

Robin S. Sharma

We all have one; the voice inside our head that can make us feel vulnerable, unwanted, not-good-enough, power-filled, righteous or the ‘all-knowing’ … otherwise known as “Ego”.

Sometimes this voice can become our master; loud and obnoxious, guiding our every interaction, causing us to seek external affirmation, become uncertain, or undermine others just to make ourselves look important or valued.

At other times it is the quiet voice on our shoulder, sewing seeds of self-doubt, second-guessing or paranoia at becoming ‘obsolete’.

And sometimes it is dulled, silenced, and we are present, still and receptive.

Too much ego can have a detrimental effect on collaboration. It can send people into their ‘shell’, take-up all the space (and air) in the room, and undermine others and the strengths they bring. It is also (I believe) the antithesis of collaboration.

Let me explain why I make this statement…

As leaders, it is vitally important we optimise the strengths of others to support their development. It is not about us; if we collaborate, and draw-upon people who are able to 'fill-the-gaps’, it brings depth and expansion to the whole.

This however takes courage and vulnerability. It requires us to separate ego from self.

  • It requires us to ‘let-go’… to surrender.

  • It also requires us to understand that we are not the ‘font of all knowledge’.

  • … It requires collaboration.

Conversely, a lowered ego can cause uncertainty around trusting our judgement, and cause us to operate from a place of lack, or neediness. This can also have a detrimental effect on collaboration. It can cause confusion and slow-things-down.

Just as lowering the voice of ego can be a challenge, so too can raising it. It also takes courage, it requires us to step into a mindset of more certainty. It calls us to consider both our head, heart and our intuitive ‘knowing’ so our decisions are more aligned and confident.

So this week become more aware of how your ego likes to ‘play’ you.

  • Notice how it operates in your thinking and behaviour.

  • How might you create more collaborative approaches by lessening, or amplifying the voice of ‘ego’.

  • And know that this is a journey we are all on, so be kind to yourself along the way. ;-)

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