For any leader, the risks of big ego are magnified. An inflated perception of oneself distorts reality, both inwardly and outwardly. Author Ryan Holiday, in his book, Ego Is the Enemy (Penguin, 2016), explores what drives this behavior:
- Egotists regard themselves as superior, set apart from everyone else.
- They are entitled and important simply because they want to be.
- They know everything, or at least don’t believe they can be taught anything of significance in their immediate world.
- With a rear-view-mirror perspective, they rely on past accomplishments, convinced these are enough to carry them wherever they want to go.
Because of the need to protect their sense of superiority, egotists are disconnected from the world, often naïve about its workings. In their minds, everything is simplified to conform to their personal perceptions.
They are blind to “uncooperative” agents, or refuse to deal with them. They refashion the truth to better support their egotistical self-image. This causes the egotist to carve out a false life to be lived out in a false world. The resulting blind spots lead to a distorted worldview and behaviors that aren’t appropriate or effective.
Since it can’t be their fault when things don’t go their way, egotists resent the people or systems they feel have let them down. They may adopt a persecution mentality, playing the victim of “unfair” treatment. Caught up with distorted thoughts and imagery, they ratchet up the superiority even more, to regain position.
Unintentionally, the egotist places a barrier between themselves and the world. Their self-serving frame of mind always wants more. Even with no scores to settle, they have a need to win all the time, at the expense of others.
Within this self-constructed worldview, they distinguish themselves (the deserved winner) from the losers. The egotist believes they are the center of everyone’s thoughts and critique. Always envied, always judged, the egotist responds to this self-appointed status with various behaviors of defensiveness, rashness, or inconsideration.