Ego is without a doubt the source of 99% of all workplace problems.  If we can learn to better manage our egos individually and collectively we can effectively reduce most of our workplace problems, right?

How many of you read the title as “Let go my Eggo”, from the popularized Eggo Waffles commercials?

No, this is something far more important, our Egos.  Ego is part of the internal psychological processes of self-protection and self-interest.   When operating from ego it’s all about us and not others, unless others are a means to serve us!   Once can hopefully see that jealously guarded self-interest serves at best, ourselves only.

In a work environment, it’s not about the leader but, the collective team or workforce, striving to achieve the organizational purpose.  When one is only seeking self-interest as a leader the collective (team/workforce) responds by following the model set before them by their leader and begin to operate in the same manner, hence an ego-driven culture is created and perpetuated.

We can’t escape ego but, we can learn not to allow ego to control us or be used to satisfy our desires only.  Remember, we find the greatest joy not in living for ourselves, but something bigger than us.

Ego is without a doubt the source of 99% of all workplace problems.  If we can learn to better manage our egos individually and collectively we can effectively reduce most of our workplace problems, right?

How many of us have been sitting around a meeting table with maybe 4 other managers, leaders or co-workers and discovered, there is not a collective agenda here but 5 agendas and they are all being shared but, no one is picking up what the other shares because they are too busy espousing their own agenda?

It happens all too often.  It’s quite natural really.  However, we don’t have to let individual agendas derail our team’s ability to achieve the collective organizational purpose.

Prime Example of Egoic Leadership:  As leaders we sometimes become trapped in the egoic thinking that as the leader I must have all the answers and be followed (others must comply) in order to maintain my status as a leader.  Well if all the leaders sitting around the table operate from this egoic notion, then very little can be accomplished.

C’mon, we’ve all been to these meetings… we spend an hour or more having each leader around the table beat their chest in self-interest with others only listening for the purpose of reacting and NOT listening for the purpose of understanding what is being said and how it supports the organizational mission, vision or goals.  What a time-suck and energy waster, when you think about the result of these meetings.

Leaders must be able to follow too!  Think about our organizational make-up of Division Chiefs, Managers, Supervisors, C-Suite are all leadership roles, yet if each cannot operate as a follower the system created is one way communication, down!  Therefore this line of thinking and practice does not allow for feedback and two way communication but creates a dictatorial, power-based approach and toxic culture.

However, ask any conscious leader and they know clearly that those best suited to make decisions are the ones closest to the work, the frontlines.

Decentralized decision making is often seen by the egoic leader as a threat to their authority, therefore all too often decisions are held close to the vest by leaders and not permitted on the front lines.

Inversely, the more “say” we give employees in carrying out their work, the more engaged each is in the outcome of their work too!  Engagement is a serious issue across the country with greater than 60% of employees disengaged from their work and nearly 15% actively disengaged and literally sabotaging their employer.  This leaves at best only 20-25% of the workforce being engaged and actually earning their compensation.

Take a moment to compute the financial losses of disengaged employees and this alone should be motivation enough to leverage a servant leadership approach, ensuring all staff are supported and given the tools to do their job effectively.   However, no one said the ego is not tricky!

Leaders be the person you look up to, motivating and inspiring others as you would wish for yourself.

Ten Tips for Leaders to Practice and Model Followership.

  1. Listen for the purpose of understanding not, commenting.
  2. Followership is a practice the same as leadership, be flexible to use both, despite your role.
  3. Remember, we gather here today not to serve individual egos, but our collective (organizational) purpose!
  4. It takes nothing away from your leadership to empower employees to think critically and make decisions (in fact it demonstrates servant leadership!).
  5. Leaders, you don’t have to have all the answers but, you should know how to find them and enable others to find the answers too.
  6. The more self-interest is expressed the more it will be reflected in your workplace culture!
  7. Toxic cultures are created out of self-interest and often do not align to organizational purpose.
  8. Lead, follow or get out of the way! Let us not stop the progress of those who are doing what was once thought not possible.
  9. The single greatest charge of leaders is not to create more followers but, more leaders!
  10. The greatest threat to your leadership abilities is seeking self-interest versus stakeholder interests.

Conscious Leaders also know the importance of continuous learning and growth, not only for their own career but, that of their employees too.  For more resources and tools that translate to higher levels of engagement, morale and profit contact HR Evolution at

Photo by Evgeny Tchebotarev on Unsplash

Ryan McShane is the President/CEO of HR Evolution, LLC a consulting firm specializing in Human Resources, Leadership Development and Career Transitions Consulting. Prior to that, Ryan worked in the public, private and not-for-profit sectors, learning the various cultural norms, principles and practices of each sector and applying that learning to create High Performance Leaders and Organizations today throughout Maryland and Pennsylvania. Ryan is also the immediate past president for the largest Local SHRM Chapter in the state of Maryland, Chesapeake Human Resource Association, (CHRA). Ryan’s professional affiliations include serving on the Board of Chesapeake Human Resource Association (CHRA), Board member and Membership Director of Hunt Valley Business Forum, a founding member of Conscious Capitalism- Central Maryland, a Member of York, PA’s local SHRM chapter, a Member of UMBC’s Instructional Systems Development (ISD) Advisory Board, and a former Member of the Boomer Council, an advisory council focusing on civic engagement and mature workforce strategies. Ryan is passionate about creating and leveraging existing tools and systems to enable both individuals and organizations to achieve their highest potential through greater awareness and a conscious approach to workforce management, honoring all stakeholders, wherein equal consideration is given to People, Planet and Profit.