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Less Ego Leadership

2 July 2019 By Professor Amanda Sinclair, 2019 Williamson Program Speaker

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Most of the leaders I work with are deeply committed to their teams and communities. Yet ego – the sense of self that needs protecting or defending – still plays into leadership in subtle ways. Some leaders perform to an old script driven by self-doubt or hurt, rather than what the present situation calls for. There are also new pressures on leaders to develop personal brands and memorable personas. In the process, they can become someone they don’t recognise, the deeper self feels lost. 

So, how to mitigate ego? First, we can notice we’ve been activated and then - tuning into our bodies or our breath - choose to focus on the people or situation we’re with.  Eastern philosophies remind us the ego is just one part of a much bigger self. With practice we can learn to observe ego, not be it or ruled by it. The key is to notice where one’s mind is at and make a choice about where it goes.

Second, we can recognise that part of leading with less ego may be to vest less in a personal self. At root, our notions of self are fabrications: stories we’ve been told and we tell ourselves about our views, needs, wants and weaknesses. These stories have no particular truth or solidity to them. They can be re-shaped to carry less freight with positive outcomes for us and those we seek to lead.

To lead with less ego:

  1. Practice stepping back from your thoughts – they’re not you! 
  2. Notice when your internal narrative is ‘all about me’. Leadership is always better coming from a more open part of the self.
  3. Be prepared to share your history with its setbacks and failures. Model that the self is a dynamic construction, with many opportunities for letting go of tightly held views and habits, for forgiveness, and learning.

 

Professor Amanda Sinclair

Amanda Sinclair is an author, researcher, teacher and consultant in leadership, change, gender and diversity. Currently a Professorial Fellow, Amanda held the Foundation Chair of Management (Diversity and Change) at Melbourne Business School from 1995 - 2012. Her books include: Doing Leadership Differently (1998); Leadership for the Disillusioned (2007); Leading Mindfully (2016) and, with Christine Nixon, Women Leading (2017). Amanda has coaching and consulting experience in corporate, medical, police, school, union, judicial, university and government settings. Also a yoga and meditation teacher, she seeks to support people towards sustainable ways of being in leadership.