Consider your Ego
Consider your Ego
“For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself” (Galatians 6:3, ESV).
Our hubris and inflated (or deflated) ego tend to blind us.
According to a recent Harvard Business Review article, inflated ego is the enemy of good leadership. And if you’ve ever interacted with someone who has an inflated ego—be it at work, home or in friendships—you know its destructive power.
Until I started researching this topic, it never occurred to me that the word ego is neither bad nor good. Ego is a neutral word that refers to a person's sense of self-esteem or self-importance. Just like money, for example, which is a neutral commodity, ego can be used for good or evil.
So, our sense of self-esteem and self-importance, our ego, can either be based in:
- God’s view and image of us, giving us an accurate, God-grounded sense of self
- Our inflated view of self-importance driven by power, position, money or popularity
- Our deflated view of self, driven by insecurity, past and present wounds or hurtful words
Unless we lead and influence from a God-grounded sense of self-importance and self-esteem, our inflated or deflated egos will surely diminish our influence and sabotage not only our work, but the work of those entrusted to our care.
The inflated ego
In the above-mentioned article, authors Hougaard and Carter imply that the higher we climb the corporate ladder the higher our risk of developing an inflated ego. They state:
“…The higher leaders rise in the ranks, the more they are at risk of getting an inflated ego. And the bigger their ego grows, the more they are at risk of ending up in an insulated bubble, losing touch with their colleagues, the culture, and ultimately their clients… an inflated ego narrows our vision. The ego always looks for information that confirms what it wants to believe. Basically, a big ego makes us have a strong confirmation bias.”
In Deuteronomy 18 the Lord issues a stern warning to those who are in danger of being blinded by their inflated egos. Here is what He says:
“Take care lest you forget the Lord your God… lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied, then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery… Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth’” (Deuteronomy 18:11-17, ESV).
When success comes, when goals are being accomplished, when compliments, awards and recognitions come flooding in, and when wealth increases, Deuteronomy 8:18 reminds us:
“You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth…” (Deuteronomy 8:18, ESV).
In 1 Chronicles 29:12 we are once again reminded that:
“Riches and honor come from you alone, and you are the ruler of all mankind; your hand controls power and might, and it is at your discretion that men are made great and given strength” (TLB).
The road to inflated ego is very subtle and it happens one victory, one accomplishment, one small success at a time. Here is how Hougaard and Carter illustrate the process:
“As we rise in the ranks, we acquire more power. And with that, people are more likely to want to please us by listening more attentively, agreeing more, and laughing at our jokes. All of these tickle the ego. And when the ego is tickled, it grows.… Because our ego craves positive attention, it can make us susceptible to manipulation. It makes us predictable. When people know this, they can play to our ego. When we’re a victim of our own need to be seen as great, we end up being led into making decisions that may be detrimental to ourselves, our people, and our organization.”
This a good time to pause and reflect on your ego. Where does your self-esteem and sense of self-importance come from? Is your ego easily “tickled?” What would it take for you to re-establish your ego on God’s thoughts about you and His goodness and power in your life?
The deflated ego
The deflated ego doesn’t get nearly as much attention as the inflated ego, but make no mistake—it’s as dangerous or more so than the overblown ego.
When someone’s ego (the way they view themselves) has been crushed and deflated by words or actions of a parent, spouse or friend, they’ll likely act and react based on past or present hurts and wounds. A deflated ego often manifests itself through:
- The need to have full control over events and people
- Frequent criticisms or negativity
- Passive-aggressive behavior
- Evasion of direct conflict
Those who lead and influence others out of deflated ego prioritize protecting self and self-interest above all else.
In his Harvard Business Review article, Ron Carucci gives us an insight into leaders who lead out of deflated ego and insecurity. He says:
“Don’t presume your boss is aware of, and even being intentional with, their behavior. More often, passive aggressiveness is an unconscious response to anxiety or a perceived threat. At their core, these bosses tend to be lonely, deeply insecure, and perpetually anxious.”
If you’ve been hurt, mistreated, or disregarded by others in the past, and those wounds are a driving force behind your leadership and influence, remember what God’s Word says:
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17, ESV).
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9, ESV).
“For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly” (Psalm 84:11, ESV).
He is more than able to redeem your wounds and hurts! Will you let Him?
Accurate self-awareness and self-esteem can only come from our Heavenly Father. Having God-grounded confidence and embracing His thoughts and ideas about us is the only way we can begin leading like Jesus.
When we see ourselves the way God sees us, humility will become the driving force behind our interactions with others.
James 4:6 tells us that “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
Proverbs 3:34 reminds us that “…to the humble he gives favor.”
According to Hougaard and Carter, the solution to an inflated or deflated ego is humility and gratitude:
“Humility and gratitude are cornerstones of selflessness. Make a habit of taking a moment at the end of each day to reflect on all the people that were part of making you successful on that day. This helps you develop a natural sense of humility, by seeing how you are not the only cause of your success.”
God’s Word encourages us to grow in humility and to cultivate a grateful heart.
Our gratitude should always point to our Maker first and then extend to those we lead and influence. Making this a daily practice will helps us overcome inflated or deflated ego tendencies.
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