Real leaders need to lose the ego

Management thinker Isaac Getz on the business importance of reducing your over-inflated sense of self worth.

by Isaac Getz

"The biggest shortage in the world is not oil or food. It’s leadership without ego." So said Bob Davids, who has successfully led six companies in diverse industries for 40 years, including a leading high-tech toymaker Radica and world-famous winery Sea Smoke Cellars.

Davids’ claim is explained by former General Foods CEO Clarence Francis: "You can buy a man's time, you can buy a man's physical presence at a certain place ... but you cannot buy enthusiasm, you cannot buy initiative, you cannot buy loyalty, you cannot buy the devotion of hearts, minds, and souls. You have to earn these things."

Of course, if a CEO has a big ego, if they think they are the smartest person on the block and show it permanently, they won’t earn devotion — in other words, engagement. However, ego is not only the CEO’s behaviour. It’s also embodied in organisational structure and practices. The bigger the ego and the steeper the hierarchy, the more controlling the organisational procedures and motivational — carrots and sticks — practices.

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