Egomaniacs Are Toxic

By Tom McDermott

Freud believed that personalities are broken into three components: id, ego and superego. The id being the part of our personalities that provide our animal instincts - things like satisfying hunger or sexual desire, for example. The superego is the component that tells us to do the right thing; it regulates our moral compass. The ego is the balance between the id and the superego, negotiating between the two to give us direction on what to do. If you placed a delicious cake in front of you, the id would want you to eat the entire cake, the superego would give you common sense to not eat the cake and the id would negotiate until you made a common-sense decision. Each person has different mechanisms to negotiate decisions - some good, some bad. Freud also compared personalities to icebergs, only seeing the tip, with much more below the surface. How true is that!!

An egomaniac, by definition, is a person who is obsessively egotistical or self-centered. Yes, we’ve all encountered an egomaniac at some point in our lives. You may even be one and don’t realize it. No one enjoys dealing with an egomaniac. It’s common for some newly-appointed managers to let the position go to their heads, becoming temporary egomaniacs with their new-found power. Many business owners and senior managers become egomaniacs, because to them, power and status is more important than common sense and humility.

For example, my daughter and son-in-law are in the process of securing bids to remodel their home. They contacted several contractors and started gathering the required information to make an informed decision. The first contractor to survey the job showed up in a new Ferrari! How incredibly stupid was that? Why in the world would someone with a shred of common sense think that that was a good idea? A good guess is that this contractor was an egomaniac. He thought that the Ferrari was a status symbol that commanded respect. “Look at me, I’m so successful, I’m driving a Ferrari, so give me business”, is more than likely what was in his head. To the customers, that screams the message that they are about to get way overcharged! What do you think the reaction was from my daughter and son-in-law? It was a big fat “hell no!” That clueless contractor couldn’t get past his ego, and threw common sense right out the window.

There is an anomaly that happens as people climb the ladder of success. They become less and less accessible, and more and more self-important. If you had a complaint, would you be able to reach the CEO of the company to discuss the issue? Probably not. They are hidden behind firewalls and assistants to keep people away. Why does this happen? It’s the theory of “I’m important and you are not”.

Employees do not work well with egomaniacs. They are mostly afraid, and do the job as a means of survival. Conversely, a strong leadership brings out the best in employees. Employees working under these conditions are happy and balanced. They produce more and have less absenteeism. It is imperative that you create an environment with strong leadership, not strong egos.

I once called my insurance agent to discuss a policy change with him. This is a person I’ve known for thirty-plus years, and consider him a friend. After receiving the greeting from the person that answered the phone, I asked to speak to my friend. Her response was, “May I tell him who is calling?” Reluctantly I responded with my name.

She followed with (perhaps you guessed it), “May I tell him what this is about?” That did it for me, I was not in the mood for this interrogation. I quickly said, “No, you may not! Why is that important? Will he choose not to talk to me based on my answer? You tell him that if he doesn’t want to talk to me to cancel all of my policies immediately”. She fumbled for a response and put me through. After a minute, he answered and apologized, realizing that I was not happy. I lectured him on how screening calls can be very bad for business. He got the message and changed his policy on call screening that day. Call screening is a mistake to begin with. What is even worse is when an assistant asks who is calling, puts you on hold and then returns to the call stating that the person you want to talk to is busy. It is so tacky and unprofessional to handle calls that way. What is the solution? Answer your calls, don’t be an egomaniac. There are ways to screen calls so you don’t project arrogance.

Egomania is counterproductive to growth. It intimidates employees, especially new employees. Which scenario drives growth: a well-balanced leader that encourages performance and employee growth,q or an egomaniac that is demanding, demeaning and always right? The answer is obvious. If you haven’t seen the movie We Were Soldiers, it is a true story, and I highly suggest that you watch it. Mel Gibson plays Colonel Hal Moore, a decorated colonel from the Vietnam war. He was faced with staggering odds during one of the first battles of the Vietnam war. It is a story about a man without an ego who was a true leader. His incredible leadership and lack of egomania led his men to victory. His opponent, Lt. Col. Nguyen Huu An, was a formidable opponent, but eventually lost the battle and lost many men. In 1993, the two leaders met in Vietnam and became friends. You can listen to Col Moore’s talk about leadership here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rh5FpxWlpCA

There is absolutely no place in any business for an egomaniac. If you have one working for you, get them some training. If you are one, get some training. If you want to be a strong leader, it is critically important to find the right balance between id, ego and superego. Get over yourself and become a leader.

LCP offers courses to help you become a well balanced leader.

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