Is Ego the Enemy of Leadership or Essential?

I have a different take on ego. Though I understand the HBR article titled “Ego is the Enemy of Good Leadership”, I’d like HBR to write the corollary titled, “Ego is Essential for Good Leadership.“

Without a doubt, unchecked ego is a problem as the article explains. As a founder and CEO of a 500 person high tech company, I counted on my ego to help me withstand the pressures of running a business. My ego did not isolate me or make me want perks. I wanted to do the best for the employees and their families.  I immersed myself in the company and was humbled by the company we had built.

Each night when I woke up at 2am, I would reflect on the previous day. What did I do right? What did I do wrong? How can I do better? Was I loving enough? Was I tough enough? Do I have what it takes to lead the company? The HBR article cites the “hubris syndrome.” I’d like their next article to cite the “imposter syndrome.”

2am reflections are brutal on the soul. Without ego, I don’t know how I would be able to get up a 4:30am to begin the day. Ego is essential for good leadership. Humbleness is essential for good leadership. Finding the right mix is the challenge.


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