The surprisingly challenging path of leading beyond ego

Last week we uncovered the one trait that most business leaders around the world have in common: The inherent behavior of leading others with our egos at the forefront. We highlighted how this tendency is such a widely accepted norm in business leadership that most of us haven’t ever stopped to question it.

We received a resoundingly positive response from the article last week, and if this topic piqued your curiosity, you were not alone. The book Beyond Ego, by Thor Olafsson, became an instant bestseller in global leadership around the world on its release. It seems that leaders like yourself are hearing the calling for a new type of management and are starting to ask the questions around what it takes to lead beyond our egos.
In last week’s article we explored the motivation for this approach, and looked at the “big why” behind leading beyond ego, and in this week’s article we are going to be asking the question of how a leader can start a path of leading beyond their ego.
It’s a Deeply Committed Path
The first consideration when we decide to commit to this type of leadership path is that it requires our consistent commitment. When we embark upon a journey of this nature it is with the purpose of uncovering aspects of ourselves that have served us to some extent. If you recall from last week’s article, many of the traits of the ego were formed in early childhood as a response to the challenges that we faced. They are strategies that have in some way served us. If we have learned, for example, to motivate a team through fear, and our team functions reasonably effectively through that method, being willing to turn that approach on its head and create a psychologically safe environment may seem counterintuitive. Often it can feel daunting to question our fundamental approaches or question whether there is another way.
So this deeply committed path starts with us being willing to take a leap of faith. It starts with us having the foresight to ask, “Yes, so far, there are strategies that have worked for me, but am I willing to examine myself and question whether these strategies are the most effective way forward?” And if the answer is “yes” then our commitment requires a curiosity to look at the most uncomfortable parts of ourselves and a willingness to dismantle them.
It’s a Multi- Dimensional Path
In everyday leadership scenarios we are required to balance multi-dimensional elements in order to achieve a goal. As leaders and managers we are usually dynamic individuals who are used to adopting multiple tools and strategies simultaneously in order to support our teams to execute various tasks within the wider framework of our organization. Working with our egos is similar, in that it requires a multi-dimensional approach with many elements being addressed simultaneously.
In Beyond Ego: The Inner Compass of Conscious Leadership, Thor Olafsson has laid out a path for us to follow so that we can deconstruct the ego, and it’s a framework that ensures that we are able to work with our egos from many different angles. The truth is that often in challenging situations of leadership we are most likely to fall back into ego-based patterns and behaviors, so we need to do the deep groundwork so that we aren’t caught out in these challenging moments. We need to be able to continuously deconstruct our egos and learn from our toughest challenges, so we don’t keep repeating the patterns that are familiar to us.
On the Inner Compass, it looks like this:
Although it’s essential that we first take ourselves around the Inner Compass on a journey that examines all these elements in this particular order, when we have been around and looked at all these elements once, we can start to use the Inner Compass in a multi-dimensional way to see where our blind-spots are, and to support us in leading from beyond our egos when things get difficult. We’ll probably find that one or two of the areas above contain more blindspots than others, and we can learn to revisit those elements and see what our repeat patterns are in challenging times.
 It’s a Path that is grounded in Truth and Purpose
You probably noted that the first two elements of the Inner Compass above were “Truth” and “Purpose.” To lead beyond ego, these are the two most essential starting points. When we look at truth, we are really looking at three elements. These are: truth for our corporation, truth for our team, and truth for ourselves. Starting by getting really clear on what is true for us personally is essential, because once we get aligned with our own truth, the way we interact with the truth for our team and the corporation that we work within can radically transform. If we are willing to uncover the parts of ourselves that have been unknowingly hiding from the truth in different ways (which are more common than most of us realize) then we will show up differently for our team and our organization, and it will sincerely impact the way that we operate as leaders from here on in.
Alongside truth sits purpose. Determining the purpose behind our leadership role enables us to check if we are aligned with our company’s purpose. Getting clear on our purpose—the “why” that fuels us—will inform all the other elements of dismantling our egos. Because once we know what’s true for us and what our core purpose really is, then we can meet our ego and see all the different ways that it derails our purpose and intention. We can start to move onto the other aspects such as humility and trust, and have a clearer idea of where our blindspots are when we come up against them.
It’s a Consistent Journey, Not a One Time Activity
Although we’ve looked at the path that a leader might take around the Inner Compass in order to dismantle their ego, the truth is that it isn’t a one-time journey. Life and leadership will throw many challenges at us, and each time we are willing to learn and grow from those challenges, it will deepen our understanding of ourselves and our ego patterns, if we allow it to. In Beyond Ego, Thor Olafsson shares that the leaders that he works with (himself included) usually take countless trips around the Inner Compass, and each time their understanding of themselves, and their leadership qualities grow as a result. So working with the Inner Compass for a leadership journey will look something like this:
And each journey round will bring more growth.
The Outcome of Leading From Beyond Ego
To reiterate the outcomes of breaking down our egos in leadership, I want to invite you to participate in a short exercise from the Beyond Ego book. imagine a scenario, where you have the kind of boss who shares a lot of truth with you and asks the same of you. At the same time, you have no doubt that she has motivations that are driven by a deeply informed purpose. Her ego is under control, and she is able to be vulnerable, while still being strong. She is passionate about looking within, and has made a commitment to be a more conscious leader. Now ask yourself, if you had this person as a boss, would you trust her more? Everyone I ask this question to answers that they would.
If we are willing to make the commitment to be this kind of leader, for ourselves and our teams we can start to imagine the impact that it can have on our leadership going forward. These are the outcomes of choosing consciousness, operating beyond ego, and being able to lead a team from this place. And it is an outcome that is achievable if we sincerely commit to leading beyond our egos.
Discovery….Thinking solutions, shaping visions.
Thor Olafsson is author of the recently released International Bestseller BEYOND EGO: THE INNER COMPASS OF CONSCIOUS LEADERSHIP. He’s an award-winning leadership coach and consultant with over 20 years of global experience, and has worked across 30 countries and 5 continents. Some of his key clients through the years have included Arion Bank, BMW Group, Bertelsmann, Central Bank of Iceland, Continental and Roche Diagnostics, to name a few.
For a more in depth exploration of leading beyond ego and to find out more about the Beyond Ego book, go to www.beyondego.com​. The Beyond Ego book is also available globally on Amazon.
In Collaboration with:
Frank Adu Anim (Discovery Leadership Masterclass) Dr. Genevieve Pearl Duncan Obuobi (Lead Consultant on Cx. Leadership & SME, Country Chair, Ladies in Business) and Sasha Allenby, Founder & Director EqualityHive (USA).

Genevieve Pearl