Leaders must abandon their egos and be truly authentic to be most effective, according to Isaac Getz, professor of leadership and innovation at ESCP Europe Business School and co-author of Freedom, Inc.
Speaking exclusively to HR magazine ahead of the publication of his forthcoming book Leadership Without Ego, co-authored with Robert Davids and Brian Carney, Getz stressed the importance of leaders empowering staff to think and make decisions for themselves, and the importance of abandoning ego to achieve this.
“Ego is a very important part of CEO image… [but] if a CEO wants to transform their organisation around trust they need to start with themselves,” said Getz. “If they haven’t abandoned their own ego, if they think they’re the most intelligent person in the organisation and can second guess the directions of others, then all the nice talk about trust is just useless.”
This is very difficult for many CEOs to achieve because often being highly self-assured is what got them there in the first place, explained Getz.
“Having a big ego is maybe even necessary to become CEO; you wouldn’t get there otherwise, and because you’re there everyone expects you to make the tough decisions,” he told HR magazine, quipping: “If you’re not Trump you wouldn’t be president!”
This process has to be led by the leader themselves, said Getz regarding how best to transcend ego. “To have an efficient coaching process it has to come from within yourself; you can’t be sent there,” he said.
This takes high levels of confidence for leaders to achieve, said Getz: “Abandoning your ego is directly connected with vulnerability. You’re responsible but you give people the keys.
“Instead of making yourself indispensable it’s making yourself redundant; imagine how much confidence you have to do that,” said Getz regarding empowering others to make decisions.
“When I’m coaching people around this, before we start I ask: 'do you have a hobby?’” he added. “You may need one because if you succeed they’ll need you less and less!”
Getz also stressed the importance of authenticity, warning that leaders must not confuse this with the idea of being themselves at any cost: “This isn’t about being authentically nasty,” he said.
It is not something that can be faked either, warned Getz. “If all your actions are controlled and not authentic, not coming from a deep belief – your heart and your guts – at some point it might not come out right,” he warned. “At some point you’ll get tired or have a drink… you’ll relax… and people will say: ‘what’s the true version? What we’ve heard before or what we’re hearing right now?’”
He added: “If you don’t do this work on yourself and on your control issues you will slip at some point.”