On Leadership And Ego

Why So Serious?

Lighten Up Or Heavy Up…The Choice Is Yours

Have you ever noticed that a lot of people tend to take themselves too seriously?

You know who I mean:

  • Those folks who huff and puff with righteous indignation when they are challenged.
  • Those people who glare and stare when someone says something they believe is inappropriate.
  • Those people who seem to believe that it is okay for them to say things to others that should never be directed at them.

Do you have people like that in your life? Do you from time to time find them becoming annoyed by words, situations, or people that they would accept in the past but which have suddenly become intolerable to their egocentric psyches? Are you one of those people?

When you see this happening in yourself or others, what do you think might be happening?

Egoism vs. Egotism

Human beings are driven by ego. Every person with a beating heart possesses some level of egoism.

Egoism must not be confused with Egotism.

The subtle difference between the two is that egoism is the natural pride and self-esteem that we all have for ourselves while egotism is an outward display of self-esteem which usually comes across as arrogance or conceit. Egotism is generally undesirable in human society but egoism is necessary for a normal, happy life.

People who lose their egoism are usually depressed, miserable, or feeling a sense of despair. They have given up.

Egoism is what made human beings the superior beings on our planet. It is that special ingredient that causes us to build huge buildings, fly to the moon, and constantly research cures for diseases. It creates in us, a need to win!

Occasionally, egoism can turn to egotism. I call this heavying up. Sometimes a person who is normally even-tempered and easy to get along with will change their approach to specific relationships.

When that happens, we find folks saying things like this:

  • “You can’t talk to me like that!”
  • “That’s not funny!”
  • “Whatever!”
  • “How would you know?”

Reacting Poorly

Often this is because the person saying those things has allowed his or her ego to take flight in order to elevate them to a higher position than the person they are talking to. They have decided that the words or actions of the other person are repugnant to them in some way and have decided to react in an egotistical, humorless fashion, thereby belittling the other person.

It is intended to put them down or control them. Sometimes they will simply become uncommunicative in an effort to freeze the other person out.

Sound familiar?

There can be many reasons for heavying up but usually the person that has allowed his or her ego to take over is feeling demeaned, insulted, hurt or simply afraid. Their ego is telling them to strike out to take control.

Rather than thinking the situation through and treating the other person as an equal they believe that they can win by being superior, difficult, sarcastic or uncaring.

For a moment in time, they are acting like someone else. Their behaviour is neither characteristic nor acceptable even to them.

They have been taken over by their internal self-defence mechanisms and they don’t really understand the ramifications of their actions.

What To Do

When you come across people who are heavying up on you, do not react in kind. Do not retaliate with sarcasm or nastiness. That will only make the situation worse. Instead, take the high road and calmly explain to them that you mean no harm and that you would like help in resolving the issue at hand.

Ask if you have offended them somehow and let them know that their opinions matter to you.

The idea is to soften their egotistical veneer so that you can get back on track. Usually when it is made clear to someone in the throes of heavying up that they are being unfair or unpleasant, their ego will force them back into a more reasonable frame of mind.

You see, no one really wants to be viewed as unfair, rude or egotistical. But once they realize that they have been caught, they will revert to a more acceptable mode of communication.

By the way, if you ever find yourself snapping at someone for no clear good reason, remember this:

Stop taking yourself so seriously and LIGHTEN UP!

If you can do that every time, your stress level will reduce and you will have a happier life.

Bookmark On Leadership And Ego

Wayne Kehl is President and CCO at Dynamic Leadership Inc
He is author and behavioral analyst who lectures on leadership and motivation

Image Sources: deviantart.net


13 responses to “On Leadership And Ego

  1. Very interesting your article.
    Thank you.


    Diana E.D.


  2. This is a very thought-provoking and interesting article – thank you. I particularly like the idea of acting to “soften an egotistical veneer”.

    The central and over-played role of ego seems to functionally impair many leader-follower relationships, conversations and interactions – to the sad detriment of team and organizational ethos and efficiency.

    To counter this I sometimes too find myself “lightening up” by making the issue explicit and articulated, perhaps with a smile and touch of humour and an encouragement to “next time leave your ego outside the door”.


    • Well said, Paul. I like your way of handling the big ego’s. Thanks for the compliment. Cheers, Wayne


  3. I liked it, I find myself taking things very seriously and finding difficult to face situations. From now on I would try to lighten up. Thanks again


  4. One generally stays away from popular DIY pop-philosophy but your piece was a great read. Simple thing stated directly without sermonizing. Will take your advice and try to lighten up!


  5. The ego is a fascinating subject. There are times when egoism needs to inflate to accomplish a task. Say a big decision that impacts others profoundly yet it is yours to make. If done with a servants attitude it is a safe place to go and others will be accepting of your decision. Good decisions can become great ones. The slippery slope is if you fall over to egotism and try to break others down insisting on acceptance. Y.


  6. Pingback: Daily Leadership Thought #137 – Have We Lost Our Way? « Ed Robinson's Blog·

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