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Ego: the enemy of emotional intelligence

None of us particularly like being the victim of someone else's ego. We mentally roll our eyes, feel the nipping sensation in our gut, feel the hackles rise. But what about our own ego? Those reactions we just had to someone else's inflated, or perhaps deflated, view of themselves were in fact our own ego coming into play. This little game of hide-n-seek with the mask of the ego is what keeps us locked in to unhealthy exchanges and less productive results.

Listening to a podcast in which John Donovan, CEO of AT& T Communications shares his approach to success, I was struck by his humility when it came to the ego. He decided one year to spend the whole year observing his ego. The next year he spent observing others' egos, and the third year he made work an ego-free zone. John says he learned to forgive his own and others' egoic behaviours and see past them to their true selves. When he did this, everyone dropped their egos and the work took off.

The ego affects our emotional intelligence when we are not able to put the ego aside and decide to stand in our strength, expertise, wisdom knowledge and compassion that spring from our values-based, spiritually intelligent self. Eastern tradition knows the ego is the enemy of our greatness. Shoes are left at the door of an ashram or sacred site as a gesture of leaving the ego behind on entry. There is no room for ego in such a place.

So how do you leave your ego at the door and enter your place of sacred work? Be more emotionally aware, develop your emotional intelligence, use it. Here are some tips:

  1. Use your emotions as a guide as to how much of a hold your ego has on you in any one moment. Are these emotions genuine and helpful?

  2. Acknowledge your deepest goodness. Appreciate who you are at your best. Stand in your authentic power.

  3. Focus on the other person, fully, attentively, listen and offer your best intentions (even if silently). Be in the moment.

A colleague in elite sport emailed today to say he was so aware of how the ego has to control every decision and how that stops or stifles innovation and good decision making. Something he wanted to avoid. Strong leaders like him, who have high emotional intelligence based on acute self-awareness, can differentiate the ego from the true desires of the inner self.

The irony is, if you want to boost your professional standing, you must prevent the ego from destroying your emotional intelligence. You must strengthen your emotional intelligence, take control through your awareness, and burst the blown up bubble of the ego.

By Indira Kennedy, an Australian who resides in the U.K. and consults in conscious leadership. She teaches emotional and spiritual intelligence as keys to greater effectiveness and flourishing cultures in the workplace. Indira can be contacted via LinkedIn or at or 07946 319 516.

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