Every leader needs an ego buster. Some people may need an ego buster before they can even break into the role of a leader, lest they be labeled a toxic leader. Others may not necessarily need one before coming a leader, but I guarantee you in the course of their leadership journey, they will use the ego buster time and time again to keep them far away from that toxic leader line.
What is an ego buster and where do I get one you ask? Well, sometimes they are easy to find and sometimes not so much. An ego buster is a friend, a confidant, a leader in their own right, and someone who has earned your respect. A leadership coach or mentor can often provide ego buster services but should not replace your own ego buster. You may also have multiple ego busters, but minimum of one is crucial to good leadership practice. The ego buster should be close enough to you that they know you, your mannerisms, your leadership style, and your business. The ego buster must also know your weaknesses, your toxic leadership warning flags, and lookout situations. Also, of great import, is access. The ego buster must have unfettered access to you so they can challenge you before an encounter, after an encounter, or if circumstances warrant, pull you aside in the midst of an encounter and call you out on your actions.
I recently had an encounter where an ego buster served me well. I was in a meeting with a service provider. I had become increasingly dissatisfied with the level of service and product that was being provided. I personally felt that I had given the provider an ample amount of time to rectify their service and went into this particular meeting ready for a gunfight. It took just a few minutes for the representative to say the wrong thing and I came out guns a blazing! I mean I went at this guy, ready to yank the contract and complaining about the ridiculous service. I was very hostile. To be honest, I really wasn’t all that upset and the reaction was calculated on my part to jostle the provider and get their attention. That being said, after the meeting, I consulted my ego buster who was also on the call. I asked what he thought. Was I too “weapons hot” or did I get the point across? He busted my ego. He told me I was too over the top. It was an overreaction. I may have gotten the point across, but it was not in alignment with good leadership principles.
At this point, I could now do what a leader should do and take corrective action and implement damage control. Without an ego buster, incidents like this will occur without course correction. In fact, I have observed many people find themselves in a downward spiral. An ego buster can stop incidents before an outbreak occurs. Gone unchecked, a leader can become toxic and it can happen quickly.
Find yourself an ego buster. Find someone that will not be afraid to speak truth to power. (At the same time, make sure you have created a culture that encourages people to speak truth to power, not just the ego buster!) When you find someone, make sure that you have the ego buster conversation. The conversation that says Mr. Ego Buster, whatever I say, whatever I do, however I act, you are cleared to challenge me. I expect you to pull me aside and tell me when I have mistreat someone or when I violate good leadership principles. I expect you to give me the alternate view of how I am being perceived by others. Most importantly, I expect you to tell me when my head is in the sand and that I need to get it out and start being the leader I should be.