Balancing Leadership Ego and Humility

There is no shortage of egos in so-called leadership positions. I say so-called because humility is a necessary trait of a successful leader. Of course, egotism and humility are not antonyms as they can be two sides of the same coin and coexist within the leader – waiting dormant to be called upon when situations require. However, it takes a high degree of emotional intelligence to use ego and humility as tools of response as opposed to weapons of reaction.

When hiring a leadership position, I have found one discussion point that yields the greatest insight into the ability to ascertain the future leader’s ability to balance ego and humility and create future leaders.  The questions tend to flow as follows:

  1. Who have you led that has been promoted to a peer position?

  2. What did you specifically do to prepare them for the leadership position in which they were promoted?

  3. What was that person’s best leadership quality?  What did you do to enhance that quality?

  4. What was that person’s biggest opportunity for improvement?  What did you to do improve that quality?

The mark of a true leader is the ability to efficiently and effectively create additional leaders.  This is critical within an organization that is growing as it is extremely difficult and expensive to hire all new leaders from outside of the organization. Additionally, it can negatively impact culture. In fact, I would argue that a leader who has demonstrated the ability to create additional leaders – a leadership development factory, if you will – is one of the most valuable people within the organization. 

The ability and desire to create additional leaders requires so many traits that are critical to any successful organization: humility, confidence, relationship builder, provide constructive feedback and the ability to teach. But it also requires ego as it demonstrates the deep rooted desire to have someone(s) who you are directly responsible for get promoted over others responsible to another leader.

If you currently work for a leader who is all ego and no humility, it might be time to find another leader. You will know this by the amount of time the leader spends working in the business as opposed to on the business. You will know this by how much time and effort the person spends on teaching others. You will know this by how the leader provides feedback and praise. And you will know this by how the leader communicates changes – democratically or dictatorially. 

One last parting comment. The world is filled with people aspiring to become leaders. Don’t be that person. Aspire to create leaders and in so doing, you will become a great leader. Good luck.