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Ego vs optimism: A leader's guide to rose-colored glasses

Updated: Aug 1, 2018

Ego vs optimism: A leader's guide to rose-colored glasses | BenJinc creates, builds, enables & funds innovative companies

As founder, self-appointed CEO and “wannabe” entrepreneur, I find myself often having one-way animated conversations. This week was no different, yet today I recognized a pattern stemming from a number of informative conversations, reflective readings and an awakening playlist shared over the past few days…

Firstly, the week kicked off with a bang, once again, presenting EmptyTrips to a room of decision-makers, finishing with an approving applaud. Second, thanks to Mark Sham (Suites and Sneakers), I attended a Richard Mulholland talk where he explained that his pride stifled his company’s success (life changing). Third, I read the Happiness Animal by Will Jelbert on strategies to strengthen your inner happiness. Lastly, in-between listening to the Matt Brown & “How I built this” podcasts, I had Bob Dylan “Love minus Zero” on repeat with the words "She knows there's no success like failure, And that failure's no success at all” ringing over and over in my head…

Truthfully, I step into every meeting with the intention to leave people in awe, swaying their complete buy-in and leaving limited space for debate. I do this by virtue of doing my homework; being prepared with scrutinized data points, communicating concise problem statements and delivering a visionary solution with persistent conviction.  Obviously, this hooks majority, yet, does this truly always help our growth? When people are in awe, the feedback they provide often come in the form of a “pat on the back” vs constructive criticism, thereby fueling ego’s, confirming biases and fogging the rose-colored glasses many CEO’s wear (need) to achieve their objectives.

(That said, I am by no means a “delusional” leader either, the Emptytrips business has a long road ahead of it; our tech needs rapid advancing, pilots need to prove themselves, the team needs additional technical capabilities, the user experience needs to be simplified and we are still insolvent.  But our model is smart, our concept is fresh, our energy is gritty and our traction of 100+ client sign-ups in 5 months reassures our plan of action is realistic. My glasses are a good light shade of rose.)

Recognising the potential hindrance of ego-inflation to our start-up journey, ego vs optimism interests me. In my opinion, there is a distinct difference between being an ego-centric pouting leader vs an optimistic leader (wearing rose-colored glasses).

  1. An egocentric leader: Self-seeking demanding attention that confirms underlying beliefs. Ego-centric leaders tend to make decisions without alternative input, dismissing criticism and actively seeks glorification. Their individualistic agenda limits consideration for shared needs, ideas or achievable goals.

  2. An optimistic leader: Bold and determined with input-seeking agenda to improve underlying strategy, thereby strengthening confidence and positivity. Goal-orientated feedback encouraged improving progress toward ultimate vision.

Of course, I strive to be the latter.

Here are 5 tactics in an attempt to curtail an ego-centric high and to refocus on positive progress:

1. Check yourself

Recognize that the road to #1 might have been lonely, but not alone. It’s not about you, it is about the team, the clients and the vision – stop being so selfish.

2. Drive ruthless tolerance

During a talk with students at Stanford Graduate School of Business, billionaire and VC investor, Marc Andreessen highlights the need to be open-minded. You will enter a conversation with your pre-conditioned beliefs, knowledge and individualistic agendas which inhibits you to contemplate opportunity at the next level. If you are not open, how can you grow? You are not always the smartest person in the room.

3. Practice radical honesty

In the book named The Happiness Animal, Jelbert explains how honesty is the foundation to true happiness, securing respect (at home and work) and ultimately calming your anxiety. As a business leader, you are often in the position where you are required to impress and boast about success, do this authentically and with honesty. Recognise shortcomings and express disappointment openly. Honesty and clarity will bring simplicity.

4. Listen and repeat

"Most people do not  with the intent to understand; they  with the intent to reply." --Stephen R. Covey.

We can all practice actually listening to others; summarise and repeat what they said (so you stop thinking of what you would reply instead) and then listen some more.

5. Recognise that movement is not progress

Trophies don’t pay bills. Simple. When you find yourself boasting about awards and achievements, remind yourself of the real measures of success.

In summary, we are all human and can fall victim to our inflated egos. Be vigilant. Protect optimistic confidence.  

I hope you wear rose-colored shades today – but don’t pout, that’s just vain.


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