Is Your Ego in Check?

There are arguably few New England Patriot's fans in Indianapolis Colts country, and most True Blue Colts fans would never want to give them kudos for much of anything. However, an article written by John Maxwell about those cursed Pat's provides an excellent example of checking the ego at the door. In this instance, writes Dr. Maxwell, the Patriot's chose to take the field in the 2002 Super Bowl as one team. It was something that had never been done before: No individual names were called. Only 53 team members taking the field as a single unit.

Sean Gormley, columnist with Georgetown University's newspaper, The Hoya, wrote, "The significance of that entrance said more about this Patriots team than any analyst ever could, the ultimate sign of team before individual in an era of me-first go-where-the-money-is professional sports."

Pretty impressive in this day of egomaniacal sports stars – even if you don't like the Patriot's.

Ken Blanchard and Phil Hodges, in their book "Lead Like Jesus", talk in great detail about the importance of the proper EGO in an effective leader. They use EGO as an acronym of either Edging God Out or Exalting God Only. For leaders who are edging God out, say the authors, it all comes down to two areas; pride and fear, which will always separate us from God, other people, and eventually even ourselves.

Pride is an overly high opinion of ourselves, an exaggerated esteem of self and even arrogance. Romans 12:3 admonishes us to not think too highly of ourselves. Fear, which is the other side of leaders that are self serving, gives an insecure view of the future which leads to self protection. Proverbs 29:25 teaches that "the fear man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe."

Blanchard and Hodges go on to say that when we lead like Jesus, we are servant leaders. Christ modeled this for us many times, specifically in the Gospel of Matthew when He gave his "Not so with you" lesson to the mother of John and James, who requested a special place for her sons in heaven. Servant leadership was repeated when Christ washed the feet of the disciples. As we work to become servant leaders, we must replace pride and fear with humility and confidence. We are humble because we know all knowledge and blessings are from God alone; that same understanding gives us confidence.

In his book, "Good To Great", Jim Collins writes about different levels of leadership and tells us how we are to climb to the highest level, which he labeled a Level 5 Executive. According to Collins, "Level 5 leaders channel their ego needs away from themselves and into the larger goal of building a great company. It's not that Level 5 leaders have no ego or self-interest. Indeed, they are incredibly ambitious-but their ambition is first and foremost for the institution, not themselves."

Being a servant leader with the right view of ego will build community and will help everyone that seeks to influence others give a sense of real purpose. In business we certainly have a responsibility to all shareholders to make a profit, but that can not be the main objective. If we seek first the Kingdom, and in doing so look to grow and support people as instructed, the profit will be an added benefit.

Keeping our ego in line with what God wants certainly does not mean the inmates run the jail. Servant leadership is not without rules and even reprimands when necessary. Jesus taught his disciples in an organized way, knowing they needed rules, feedback, and even accountability. He also understood that they grew and matured in their skills at different speeds and responded accordingly.

A strong ego is certainly necessary in business. However, that ego should consist of confidence, ambition, and strength that rely absolutely on God for wisdom and talent. Our ego resists growth when we acknowledge that anything we have, including our ability to produce, is a gift, and we are stewards of those gifts. As Philippians 3:3 says, "For we who worship God in the spirit put no confidence in human effort. Instead we boast about what Christ Jesus has done for us."

A great servant leader starts with a clear vision which can plainly be communicated to all stakeholders. She also looks in the mirror when things go wrong, and looks outward when things are going well. She always gives praise to the team, and takes the heat when things are not going so great. The servant leader always looks at self first for the place where something could have been done differently.

When you start to think you're a big deal, ask yourself, compared to whom?