Are you an egocentric leader?

Egocentric is defined in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as “caring too much about yourself and not about other people.” This is a fairly simple definition and simplicity is a good way to start this conversation.

So answer the question to yourself now, “am I an egocentric leader?”

Let’s consider some of your possible answers:

  • “No, I am not egocentric, I always put my people first.”
  • “I work hard for my team everyday, it isn’t about me. I could stand to be a little more egocentric.”
  • “I spend more time with my team than I do my own family.”

Merriam-Webster goes on to give a “full definition” of egocentric as:

1. Concerned with the individual rather than society

2. Taking the ego as the starting point in philosophy

3. Limited in outlook or concern to one’s own activities or needs

Here is my take on this matter. If your immediate response to the question “are you an egocentric leader?” included the pronouns “I” and “my”, you might be an egocentric leader.

If your answer started with “I”, consideration can be given to the fact that without hesitation, you were the primary focus of a question that was in essence about leadership philosophy. You were the starting point. If your answer included “my team” you definitely have a limited outlook on your role as a leader because the team does not belong to you. The good news is that almost all of us (me included) had an immediate answer that used “I” or “my” and this leaves us open to further discussion about ourselves as leaders. Our overwhelming similar responses can prompt us to think deeper about how we fuse our own needs into the lives of those who report directly to us.

Hopefully this quick question, “are you an egocentric leader?” challenges us to view departments and organizations as groups of real people. Groups of human beings who not only bring real value to the organization, but also bring value to lives of the people with whom they interact outside of work.

The organizational chart (aka “org chart”) is a graph on a sheet of paper. We should approach our leadership as an honor, an honor to be chosen to fill that little box that connects us to other individuals via a solid black line. Really that is all we are, a name in a box, that after years of hard work, got to be moved above someone else’s box. When leaders become egocentric (starting with self, limited concern about others, sense of being important) it is inevitable that our name in that little org chart box will get erased and someone else’s name will be written into our place.

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