Captured on camera, a passenger being dragged off a United Airlines flight goes viral instantly, and an international brand-tarnishing moment is made. Such a scenario is a shining opportunity for a CEO, business owner, or senior executive to seize control of the situation and turn it around.
Yet, in his initial response regarding a passenger being forcibly removed from a recent flight, United Airlines CEO, Oscar Munoz positioned the incident as, regrettable but necessary. A shining example of how far too many executives lose their cool, shift the responsibility, and sometimes even fault others.
While highly public company crises are somewhat rare, each and every day C-suite executives and business owners worldwide make poor choices, allowing their ego to get in the way. An ego-driven leader sets poor examples for their employees and unwittingly creates a culture where poor customer service and poor performance are likely.
Brandon Black and Shayne Hughes are co-authors of the newly released book, Ego Free Leadership: Ending the Unconscious Habits that Hijack Your Business. The authors have learned, first-hand, that where ego-free leadership exists, companies thrive.
Black and Hughes say these four personality traits are sure signs of an ego-driven leader who could cause serious damage to their company. If any of them hit home, don't balk. Amazing leaders always find new opportunities for growth--here's yours.
1. Dismissing feedback.
The Symptom: Not listening to other points of view can lead to negative unforeseen and significant consequences in profitability, reputation and employee morale.
The Source: Every leader knows they should listen, but the ego wants to win, be right and avoid appearing incompetent or stupid. When these ego threats are triggered, it is almost impossible for leaders to constructively hear others.
The Solution: A culture of trust and transparency starts at the top. This means that the CEO, executive, or business owner must be highly and visibly receptive to input and feedback--especially when they disagree.
2. The blame game.
The Symptom: When things go wrong, our ego involuntarily points the finger at others. Our focus is on who's incompetent, doesn't get it, or never should have been put in that role.
The Source: For the ego, being wrong or at fault (especially in public) can feel like death. Let's face it: Everyone wants to be the hero and no one wants to be the fall guy. When blame is the name of the game, it is the rare leader who can own his or her responsibility first.
The Solution: A leader must first call out the fact that the blame game is going on, making it too risky for anyone to take responsibility for anything. By humbly owning their (or the team/company) part of the problem, the leader sets the example for others to "look in the mirror."
3. Us versus them.
The Symptom: Human Resources is frustrated with Operations, Sales ignores HR, and everyone is mad at IT. In this common climate of mistrust, performance issues don't get addressed, and departments fight over who's in charge instead of coming together to achieve the organization's goals.
The Source: While everyone may complain about turf wars, there is a hidden side benefit to the ego. Any lack of performance can be passed off as the failure of another person, group or department, and we get to be right in claiming that if they had just listened to us, everything would have turned out fine.
The Solution: One way to break this deadlock is to acknowledge the conflict and seek to understand how you are contributing to the problem. How are the other side's frustrations with you accurate? What are the consequences of your turf war on the organization's performance ? How can both sides align with common goals? You may believe the other's don't get it, but they actually feel just like you do. If you put your ego aside, they more than likely will too.
4. Avoiding conflict.
The Symptom: Performance and interpersonal issues don't get addressed directly. Too often, leaders sugarcoat, vent to others, or just move folks from role to role.
The Source: Almost no one wants to appear mean or uncaring, and even senior leaders resist being disliked. So, we tell ourselves that we don't want to hurt the other person's feelings by being too direct. At a visceral level, we avoid putting ourselves in the uncomfortable position of having a direct discussion about a delicate issue.
The Solution: "There are three steps to overcoming this ego threat," says Hughes. "Start by sharing the discomfort you feel at bringing up the issue. Then let them know what your intention is for the conversation," says Hughes. "Finally, state your observations about their behavior, not your conclusions." One leader's vulnerability can lead the way for someone else to face their fear of conflict, and encourage them to be more open to feedback.