You’re Not as Good a Leader as You Think You Are

Molly Fletcher

16 March 2018

One of the biggest leadership challenges is ego. Do you surround yourself with people who let you slide or hold you accountable? Tiger Woods can tell you how that works out. As his amazing talent dominated professional golf, nobody ever seemed to ask Tiger where he was or what he was doing.

Everyone needs accountability, especially the gifted leaders who think they don’t. Leaders need a healthy ego. Recently I dove into the book, Ego Is the Enemy, by Ryan Holiday and got a ton of insight into the problem and solutions.

“Early in our careers, ego impedes learning and the cultivation of talent. With success, it can blind us to our faults and sow future problems. In failure, it magnifies each blow and makes recovery more difficult,” Holidays writes. “At every stage, ego holds us back.”

So how do you reverse that, and do the things you really need to do as a great leader with humility? Here are 13 basic rules to follow for a healthy leadership ego.

1. Your reflection in our media-saturated culture is not real. Social media, reality TV and other self-promotions make us think we are more important than we are. People who are truly successful are “less invested in the story they tell about their own specialness,” Holiday writes. “They are liberated to accomplish the world-changing work they’ve set out to achieve.”

2. Success in one area doesn’t guarantee you will dominate another. The more success you have, the more you think you can do everything else well. The more competitive the industry (sports and politics come to mind), the more you see the false assumption that successful leadership translates across fields. Great leaders pause, assess and seek wise counsel so they can ensure they have clarity and humility for the new road.

3. Don’t rest on your laurels. You think you’ve made it? That’s a problem. The best leaders never think this. They stay curious, always looking for growth and new possibilities for themselves and their team.

4. Learn from others. From literature to philosophy to history, countless talented people reached the highest levels of power and success by conquering their own egos. Ego Is the Enemy mentions Bill Belichick, Katharine Graham, George Marshall, Jackie Robinson and Eleanor Roosevelt.

5. Remind yourself of what’s beyond yourself. Here’s a list from Seth Godin.

6. Own your ownership. When your team falls short, ask: "What didn’t I do to prepare them?"

7. Value pushback. As a leader, I want my people to tell me how they feel and know that I will really listen. One team member attends my keynotes periodically and provides feedback that cuts through the positives to pinpoint little areas for improvement. It’s easy to get comfortable with the feedback you want to hear; make sure you have people who give you the feedback you need to hear. That’s how you get better. Find people like this and keep them near.

In Fearless At Work, I describe how to build new habits of leadership by trading old ways of thinking and behaving for new ones. These small shifts, over time, create a big impact for leaders who want to achieve a healthy ego.


1. A fearless leader trades defensiveness for curiosity.
2. A fearless leader trades insecurity for authenticity.
3. A fearless leader trades status for legacy.
4. A fearless leader trades entitlement for humility.
5. A fearless leader trades excuses for accountability.
6. A fearless leader trades perfection for productivity.


Becoming a vital, compassionate leader involves checking your ego. Good leaders think they are all that. Great leaders have the awareness of their true value and achieve greater results because their ego doesn’t rule them. Use these rules to establish a healthy leadership ego.  

"Becoming a vital, compassionate leader involves checking your ego... Great leaders have the awareness of their true value and achieve greater results because their ego doesn’t rule them." — Molly Fletcher  TWEET

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*This piece originally appeared on The Molly Fletcher Company blog.

Molly Fletcher

inspires and equips leaders to dream, live and grow fearlessly. A keynote speaker and author, Molly draws on her decades of experiences working with elite athletes and coaches as a sports agent, and applies them to the business world. Her new book, Fearless At Work, is now available.

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