Eight years before I found myself in HR, teaching others about leadership development, I was stuck in a tricky situation with my manager. He was a director, but in the company I worked for, that was as good as having “chief” in front of your title. And he loved it.
We could tell by the way he carried himself. The people he chose to talk to. What he said in meetings and how he participated (read: didn’t participate) in team functions.
He was an ego-driven leader. He relished having the highest title in the building, used his power to push his own agenda, and judged every one he worked with by their job title.
I left that job after a year under his leadership, and in the following months, many of my colleagues did too. Because ego-driven leaders ruin teams.
They lead from intimidation and fear. Ego-driven leaders care most about the power that comes from their position or title. They crave being right and they love the spotlight. They prefer to give orders (which means they get to speak up the most in meetings) instead of promoting collaboration (which means they might not speak at all in a meeting, and then how will anyone know they’re in charge?) and taking a backseat to the team. Eventually the team stops sharing ideas because they don’t feel safe enough to share or have been conditioned to think that their ideas just aren’t good enough.
They stall growth and development. Great teams develop their people, but ego-driven leaders don’t think about development of others because they have an “I” perspective. They primarily only think about themselves, which means they approach conversations with a What do I need? What do I want? mindset instead of a How can I help you? What do you need more of/less of from me to be successful? mindset. When a leader isn’t focused on the team and its growth, employees eventually get frustrated because they realize their career path has stalled, take charge of their own development, and then leave.
They don’t speak up for the right things. These leaders care more about themselves than the success of the team or company and make decisions to further their personal agenda. They bring bias to talent programs like succession planning and performance reviews and they choose the wrong high potential employees because they of how they feel personally about each employee on the team. Rarely do they give shoutouts because speaking up to give recognition means they aren’t the one being noticed.
Ego-driven leaders manage simultaneously from a place of power and fear. They’re detrimental to team effectiveness and undermine the company mission that unites employees behind a common goal. And what’s worse, they create more ego-driven leaders because the people they promote emulate their behavior, thinking that’s the only way to get ahead and be noticed. Yikes.