There is a fine line between confidence and ego. Sometimes the line can be blurred. It can feel thin and and wobbly, requiring one to adopt balancing tricks as if walking along the tight rope without the safety net. Here’s the difference: Ego acts as a repellent, while confidence draws people in like a magnet. Leaders need to build and exude confidence while keeping their ego in check at all costs.
As human beings, we are attracted to confidence. The deeply-felt kind that inspires us to follow great leaders to the end of the earth. Yet, if you cross the line and go one shade darker, you often find it becomes ego instead of confidence.
Today, technology has created the age of the ego. It’s easy to create an ideal-looking life on social media. We post the most exciting moments enhanced with filters that make our reality seem better and brighter to the outside world. At the same time, we peek into the lives of others, seeing only the curation of their best parts. We draw comparisons that amplify our ego in a toxic way.
As Theodore Roosevelt eloquently noted, comparison becomes the thief of joy. When you believe that you can do something, are clear about what you are good at, and fully aware of what’s outside your control, you exude confidence. When we tip to over-confidence, our abilities can potentially leave ourselves vulnerable to unforeseen blows. Ego denies the possibility of failure and creates a sense of entitlement to success. Unrealistic expectations are defined and a naïve and unwarranted certainty about outcomes presents itself. Ultimately ego disconnects us from ourselves and the people around us.
Have you ever met a leader who oozes confidence when they walk their talk? Their actions speak louder, they are transparent in their thinking and are here to serve. On the flip side, have you ever been caught up in a leader’s a path of destruction, when the sense of self is inflated, and they disregard others and dismiss new ideas? Sadly,what they know is the end of all knowledge in the universe. They limit possibilities and humility goes out the window.
Deepak Chopra, the spiritual leader, says it well: “The ego relies on the familiar. It is reluctant to experience the unknown, which is the very essence of life.”
We know by nature that the ego separates. Look at conflict, the mentality of one person having to win. Leaders start to falter when egos drive their sense of entitlement, and they behave in a certain way towards others. Decisions are justified and they adopt a “better-than-them” mentality.
When leader’s behavior and attitude separates them from others, few people want to be around them. They emanate a “battle” mentality or justify incredibly selfish decisions. An attitude born of competition, comparison and manipulation is potent.
No one is immune to ego. Stepping into a conscious confidence awakens your ability to quieten your mind as needed, acknowledges presence without the social media feeds, and it serves to the whole, not to the selected few. It brings a unified “everybody matters” approach.
How do you know if a leader is confident or powered by ego? Let me share with you 11 ways you can be sure.
Relaxed eye contact
A person powered by ego does not really look at you nor engage at a soulful level. They are busy looking around for the next person to talk to about how incredibly extraordinary they are. A confident person will be present in conversation, make it all about you and will maintain a warm engagement with their eyes focused on you.
If you are not green and growing, you are dying
When we stop learning, business suffers.
Continuous learning as a leader is imperative. Have you ever come across the leader who knows it all? As if now they’ve hit the seniority threshold, there’s no need to learn any more. It’s beneath them. Warning bells should be going off at this point. When we stop learning, business suffers. It’s time for a check-in with the ego to see where we are at, rather than assuming all is good and well.
Confidence is the driver, ego is in the boot
Whether you are creating a new strategic plan, reviewing the last financial plan or plotting your next career move, you should constantly be looking for ways to improve. To stretch your thinking, expand your knowledge and broaden your toolbox. You should be delving in to explore improvements, how to strengthen yourself and your business in the next 12 months and to explore the lessons, feedback and learning is part of the continual growth process. Be cautious that the boot doesn’t open and prevent you from stepping into the inner journey of self-reflection.
Wear a visibility cloak
Don’t assume you have all the answers. You don’t. Being a strong leader means being able to seek out and use input from a wide spectrum of people. Leaders driven by ego stop listening. They stop seeking feedback. When you start to believe you are invincible, you ultimately fail. Move the ego out of the way and allow yourself to lead with a quiet confidence.
Don’t assume you have all the answers. You don’t.
Being the lone ranger
Initiative is a leadership capability. When starting off a business or transitioning into a new role, taking ownership of leading your success is critical. Business rewards results. Building a team breeds collaboration and creates success. What can often happen is we get caught up with “having to do it all” as no one can do it as good as you. Ask for help, partner with like-minded people and delegate or outsource to allow you to amplify what you do best. Move the ego to the side.
Vulnerability is strength
Imperfection opens the door for healthy discussions and pro-active change.
Resourceful and functional leaders openly admit mistakes, share experiences and their learning. Imperfection opens the door for healthy discussions and pro-active change.
Create communication architecture
Seeking different viewpoints, engaging with those at the front line and deeply listening, creates a solution-focused platform. Nothing matters more than fostering a culture that values seeking out the voices of others before a decision is made. Joel Gascoigne, the founder of Buffer, pro-actively engages people who will be most affected by any potential change to enable them to be part of solving the challenge. Nothing fosters harmony like a “we”-centric approach. His method of open sharing with full context creates an environment where all contribute to the solution and changes are more fully embraced.
Cleaning the toilet is necessary sometimes
In the corporate world, often the higher the ladder is climbed, the potential for ego to magnify is a real threat. There is an unspoken ego-driven rule that certain tasks are now beneath you, as you have paid your dues. I remember recently speaking at an event and there was a shortage of crew members. Whilst I had some time in between my speaking moment, I assisted by loading and unloading the dishwasher. As small as my contribution may have been, sometimes you need to get back into the trenches and be a decent professional human being.
Maintain an ego barometer
Sometimes, leaders are the problem. They can scare people away, they can lack the skills necessary to build sustainable relationships and as they value themselves more than others, giving them feedback would be like pouring kerosene down their throat and lighting it up. When interviewing others and your barometer is hitting the flashing red sirens, trust your internal compass and do not hire. Being confident is an asset, being egotistical is soul-destroying.
When your belief is delusional, ego has taken over
Nobody wants to work with someone who lacks empathy, is arrogant to the point of being unable to receive any feedback and sacrifices others to benefit themselves. It’s impossible to repair relationships, the quality of work decreases and both people and business are compromised. Ryan Holiday’s book, Ego is the Enemy, shows that while confidence enables one to strive forward and reach new heights, ego can be detrimental. Steven Jobs was a genius. He revolutionized computing and created an iconic brand. However, by a number of accounts, his ego made him so impossible to work with that he was eventually forced out.
Leaders create leaders. They place their staff before anything else. When you care about your people you create a human-centered business. Success is based on collective growth and extraordinary results. Ego-driven leaders put their own needs about everyone else. When was the last time you expressed your gratitude to your team, your leaders, your people?
When you value people, they reciprocate. When you invest and believe in your people, they will rise to the occasion. When you don’t invest and believe in your people, they will also rise to the occasion. You decide who will lead. Confidence or ego.
Angela Kambouris is a highly-valued leadership coach and business leader having spent over 20 years in the field of vulnerability and trauma. She is super-passionate about unlocking human potential to deliver extraordinary results and has spoken on stages and worked with thousands of people in the areas of self-development, leadership, mindset, human behavior and business. She has master-minded with leaders and expert authorities in personal development and business all over the world.