Where does the line lie between confidence and ego? At first glance, they can share many of the same characteristics. When we dig a little deeper, however, we start to see that they are very different beasts. In our own professional and personal lives, we’ve no doubt seen how ego can be the destruction of careers and relationships. Where confidence builds us up and brings people together, ego pushes away and puts on a facade.
Great leaders have confidence. We know that. We see that. It’s evident. While ego might create temporal success, it will inevitably lead to a downfall.
“I don’t have a big ego,” you might say. “I just have a healthy level of self-confidence.”
I hope that’s true! The danger comes when someone with a lot of confidence sees a lot of success: which can in turn balloon into an inflated ego.
If you want to avoid developing an ego and the inevitable downfall that comes with it, make sure you know these warning signs.
5 Tell-Tale Signs of a Dangerously Inflated Ego
1) You listen to advice but you never take it.
A person with confidence is not so fragile that they never feel as though they don’t need help, advice, or input from anyone else. In fact, they welcome it! They value the perspective of those who may be older, wiser or more experience than they. A leader with an ego, however, only listens to advice in the most superficial of ways. They listen and nod, they might even praise an idea, but they rarely follow any advice other than their own. Before they even receive feedback from anyone else, they’ve likely already made up their minds.
The danger in this is a lack of perspective. Someone who never listens to or acts on advice is essentially operating in a vacuum: stuck in their ways, never truly progressing or moving beyond what they already know.
2) You’re too good for some things...and some people.
Confident people aren’t too proud to be seen in less-than-flattering situations, to be seen with people below their social status or wealth class, and don’t worry about doing things that are “beneath them.” Someone with an ego, however, worries about all of those things. They won’t be seen in certain places or hanging around certain crowds. They may belittle or demean people they see as beneath them. Certain jobs, like blue collar tasks, are just too below their pay grade to consider.
They turn their noses up at anyone and anything unworthy. And, as a result...they find themselves with very few real friends. This attitude drives a lot of people away.
A confident person, by contrast, is welcoming and humble. They know the value of every person and occupation. Because of this, they’re never too good for anyone or anything.
3) You can’t be taught.
The day you refuse to learn is the day you cease to be an effective leader. A person with an over-inflated ego is exactly that person. If you won't learn: whether it’s from someone with more experience or from your own mistakes, then you are doomed to failure.
A confident person knows that they don’t know everything and they are eager to learn more and better themselves. An egotistical person thinks they already know everything.
You don’t. So always be willing to learn.
4) You look out for number one.
A common mantra in by-gone days, looking out for number one was a call to watch out for yourself and yourself alone. Your own success was all that mattered. An egotistical leader still follows this advice, even if they don’t say it out loud. They’re in it for their profit and glory and they don’t care who they have to step on to get it. It is this thinking that can create corruption and some serious problems in our businesses today!
On the other side of things, a confident leader knows that he is not who makes or breaks his business. His team is crucial. Lifting them up and helping them reach their full potential is ultimately what best serves the business best.
5) You’re too proud to admit when you’re wrong.
None of us are perfect. Ego says you are and sits in abject denial when you fail. This results in mistakes as you go headlong into your error and refuse to turn from a path even when you know mistakes are being made. Ego won’t let you quit, though! Where confidence has the humility to turn from a failing course, ego would rather go down with the ship than to admit that it’s sinking.
Ultimately, the difference between confidence and ego all comes down to humility. Do you still have it? Can you carry yourself with a humble heart and a genuine care for the people around you? The people working with you and for you? If you care about people other than yourself and things beyond your own success, chances are you haven’t fallen prey to an ego.
Don't let your guard down, though: it's a danger to all of us!
Has ego ever gotten in the way of your success? Share your stories in the comments.