Don’t kid yourself…you’ve got an ego and sometimes it gets out of control. You may not act like a pompous jerk in public, but you have undoubtedly experienced moments where self-righteous, egotistical thoughts run through your mind and you act in ways inconsistent with your normal behavior. Maybe your ego raged out of control when you felt the need to impress someone or maybe to protect yourself in response to a perceived slight. Regardless of the cause, if you’re not careful to keep your ego in check, it will erode trust in your relationships and be the downfall of your leadership.
One of the four key elements of establishing trust in a relationship is being “believable,” which means acting with integrity. In polls and surveys I’ve conducted with hundreds of people, this one element is often cited as the most important element in building trust. It’s also the element of trust that takes the biggest hit if your ego is left unchecked. An out of control ego signals to other people that you believe you’re more important than them, place your interests ahead of theirs, and that others can’t be vulnerable with you without fear of being taken advantage of.
There are three key areas leaders can focus on to keep their ego in check, increase their “believability” with others, and build trust.
- Honesty — The basics apply here: don’t lie, cheat, or steal. But being honest also means not stretching the truth, telling half-truths, omitting facts out of convenience, or failing to speak the truth when needed.
- Values — Do you know what your core values are? What motivates you as a leader? When faced with a difficult choice, what are the values you use to filter your decision? Developing and articulating your values, and asking others to hold you accountable to living out those behaviors, will help keep your ego in check and allow others to gain confidence in the consistency of your behavior.
- Fair Process — Do you treat people fairly? Egotistical leaders love to play favorites. Trustworthy leaders treat people ethically and equitably. Being fair doesn’t mean treating people the same across the board, no matter the circumstances. It means treating people fairly according to their specific situation and upholding consistent principles and ideals with your entire staff.
A believable leader is someone who acts with integrity and is a role model for the company’s values. We commonly describe believable leaders as credible, honest, and ethical. When someone is believable, he or she tells the truth, holds confidences, is honest about his or her skills, and gives credit when credit is due. Notice that egotistical doesn’t appear anywhere in that description. Egotistical leaders “bust” trust, whereas as believable leaders “boost” trust, and by focusing on developing honesty, values alignment, and acting fairly, leaders can keep their ego in check and build trust in the process.
I appreciate the post Randy. The 3 keys are great checkpoints for people to reflect back to if necessary… it takes a genuine person for those three keys to persuade others to follow. I’m sure we’ve all seen the manager who looks like he’s in pain when trying to tell the truth, justifies decisions as “for the good of the company”, and THINKS he’s fair, although others around know the difference. Your three keys will have to be the focus of a number of managers if they wish to become effective leaders. Thanks again.
Hi Justin. Thank you for your thoughtful reply. A leader’s “believability” needs to be true and consistent if he/she wants to trusted.
Again, you made three very good points. I am just thinking about the external and the internal view. Some would refer to this as objective and subjective. We all have our blind spots. Therefore it might be hard to check on ourselves to find out if we are always fair and treat people equally. Maybe the best (and only) way to measure this is the result. What do you think about this?
Have a great week.
You make an excellent point Brigitte. It’s helpful to do a self-assessment of our own behavior, but it’s even better to get feedback from others. Leaders benefit by surrounding themselves with “truth-tellers” – people who will give honest feedback about the leader’s performance. Soliciting feedback from truth-tellers can help a leader keep the ego in check!
Have a great week,
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