As we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, leadership and good business decisions are necessary for success. The pandemic did many things to retail, the least of which was to require people in positions of power to make business-altering decisions that will have a long-term impact on the future of their companies.
It’s times like these that leaders, especially young leaders, cannot afford to let ego get in their way. As a leader, and or for those on a path to leadership in the convenience store and petroleum industry, everything you say and do is amplified. The optics will be even further amplified at a family-owned business, where employees take a cue from your behavior. When you inspire others, help employees grow and keep people connected to their passion and purpose, performance soars. When you micromanage employees, steamroll over everyone, or focus on what you can get from others rather than how you can serve them, performance withers.
This was the subject of Karen McGregor’s book, “The Tao of Influence: Ancient Wisdom for Modern Leaders and Entrepreneurs.” In order to provide real leadership at any age, leaders must keep their egos in check.
“When our ego is running the show, we not only fail to reach our potential as leaders, we hold others back from reaching theirs,” McGregor said.
McGregor discussed five common ego needs leaders should examine that could be undermining their potential to do great things.
The need for approval. Anytime you look for approval for something you have said or done, you are asking for validation of your worthiness from outside of yourself. McGregor said that no matter how much praise or how many awards you receive over the years, if you always need validation, you will eventually make decisions to feed your ego. Focus on making the right decisions.
The need to be right. Trying to control others and needing to be right diminish our power and weaken our ability to influence. They take the life out of creativity and destroy new solutions to old problems. Sometimes leadership requires taking direction and accepting guidance.
The need to get something from someone. This is a survival need and stems from the fear that you won’t be provided for, that there isn’t enough or that you aren’t good enough. If you experience this need, it pulls you away from alignment with what you know is right.
“For business leaders, it might feel like the business will die if you don’t get the best deal,” McGregor said. “Yet that’s highly unproductive. If you operate with the energy of fear, anyone you are negotiating with will sense something is off. They might want to work with you, but they won’t cement the deal, and they won’t be able to articulate why. Instead, focus on your desire to be of service to others.”
The need to stay safe. Sometimes the need for safety can become one’s primary reason not to pursue greatness. The fear of change — that something will be taken away or something bad will happen — is quite commonplace. Yet, it can rob us of the ability to be powerful influencers in the business world.
The need to protect against criticism. Feedback shouldn’t be feared. Powerful people embrace it. Smart organizations strive to create an environment where it’s safe to offer dissenting opinions. For example, Steve Jobs gave an annual award to an Apple employee who would challenge him in a way that led to company growth and product perfection.
“Regularly meet with a handful of brave people who challenge you just as you challenge them,” McGregor said. “These should not be people-pleasing friends; they should have dissenting opinions. It may seem counterintuitive, but every great leader with lasting influence minimizes blame and focuses on personal responsibility instead.”
When you no longer need to engage with the needs of your ego, you will be a better leader. People will feel safe enough to tell you the truth. You can energize and inspire your team. And you will find your work far more fulfilling because you will finally be leading in a way that’s aligned with your natural abilities.