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Good Leaders Have Small Egos

Updated: Feb 13

A team is formed when individuals selflessly put the wants and needs of the team ahead of their own. The power of a team is the accumulated energy that each member is prepared to contribute. This builds trust but most importantly reduces ego. Trust is extremely important, and ego destroys it. Though, don’t get ego confused with high levels of self-belief or even a bit of arrogance. These traits are important and can live comfortably in a team environment as long everyone trusts each other. Someone who has an out of control ego is either protecting the past or perceiving the future. They are always defending and rarely live in a present mindset. The power they seek over others is a weakness disguised as strength. My experience is that if you can help them understand this and they drop their ego and put the team first, their performances and the team’s functionality improve dramatically. One of the most effective ways for a leader to encourage team members to reduce or lose ego is to drop theirs first. By doing this they immediately defuse tensions and open up opportunities for growth. Earlier this year in a column for the Telegraph, I wrote about sporting club leadership and highlighted a couple of AFL Clubs and how they had created success because of the selflessness of their boards. Here is an extract.

“In 2006 the board of the Geelong AFL club felt they were underperforming. They hadn’t won a premiership since 1963 and had finished a disappointing 10th that season. They called for the dreaded “independent review”. The coach at the time, Mark Thompson, was under enormous pressure and looked the likely scapegoat from the outside. This review was going to be different though and proved to be a defining event for the future successes of the club. The first people to be reviewed and have the blow torch put on them was themselves. They led from the front – what do we as a board need to do, improve, and change to better lead this club and win premierships? The following year Geelong won their first title in 44 years and backed it up 2 years later in 2009. Thompson left the club in 2010 and current coach Chris Scott was at the helm when they won again in 2011. The Cats have only missed the finals once since, in 2015. The Geelong Board collectively dropped their ego and lead everyone else in the club to do the same. The result of which was an increase in honesty and empowerment throughout the entire organisation. The Richmond Tigers board followed a similar path at the end of 2016 after finishing 13th. Coach Damien Hardwick was perceived to be a dead man walking. From the top down, the Tigers pulled together and were rewarded with a premiership in 2017. After winning the Minor Premiership in 2018 they are currently favourites for the flag this year along with ladder leaders Geelong.”

As we now know, Richmond were premiers again in 2019 and Geelong played in the preliminary final.

In sport and business there is always an enormous focus on results. It's important to understand that the power of our team is what produces results; not individual talent. When people are prepared to make personal sacrifices for a higher purpose it is special. As human beings this makes us feel good and gives us that feeling of belonging.

Selflessness is such an important trait which needs to be displayed and encouraged by leaders. Drop your ego and give yourself to the team first. Your people will then feel secure and be compelled to do the same. The results will follow.

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