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Ego and Three Lessons New Leaders Need to Know

Many new leaders have to learn these lessons the hard way - like I did.

“I was good where I was before. Why am I failing where I am now?” I was 30 years old and struggling as a new leader. I had success as an individual contributor. So much, in fact, that I skipped a level in the corporate ladder when I earned my first leadership position. It seemed like a natural fit, a successful salesperson with leadership experience and training from the military should do well in his new role. That’s what my company thought. And my ego did not need any convincing either.

That was my problem. My ego said:“I already know how to be a good individual contributor. Therefore, if I just tell everyone how I did it, they will be successful too! Simple. I’ll spend a few years spreading my knowledge at this level. Our team will excel and I will move up to the next level of leadership.”

Now in my mid-fifties, I realize that ego is a dangerous thing for a new leader. For me and a lot of other new leaders, ego will derail or at best delay your success. The accolades and recognition you get as an individual contributor may get you the promotion, but those past individual accomplishments are not a guarantee of success as a leader.

Three Humility Lessons New Leaders Need To Embrace

  1. Your Way Is Not the Only Way

Successful individuals developed processes and habits that helped them succeed. But because those worked for you, does not mean they are the only way to do things. Different personalities will find different ways to accomplish their tasks. When you try to force a round peg into a square whole, there will be resistance and there will be pain.

Give the individuals on your team the opportunity to show you their way of doing things before you decide to have them do it your way. If it works for them, great! They don’t need to be a “Mini Me”.

2. You Do Not Have the Most Influence Within Your Team

I thought I was the leader because I was the one who got promoted. When I took over future teams, I realized I was not the leader until that role was given to me by the members of the team. In the interim, there was somebody inside that team who had everyone’s ear. That was the person of influence.

Find out who that person is on your team and develop trust with them. Make that your first step in building trust across the entire team. When you get that person’s buy-in, your team will follow.

3. Listen To Your Team

I was too sure of myself. I asked for suggestions from my team, but I still steered every conversation to my way of thinking. My ego pushed their ideas aside and soon their ideas stopped coming. The collective wisdom of the people on your team is a resource a new leader can’t afford to ignore.

Be open to trying the things the team suggests. If you are unsure about their solutions, ask them how they came to that conclusion. Give them a chance to explain their rationale. A leader who is humble enough to ask for feedback, truly listen, and work to understand will earn the trust of the team.

In every organization it happens this way. Great individual performers get promoted to lead teams. Some thrive and some don’t. I was one of the ones who struggled early until I realized my ego was the number one reason the team was not performing. Many new leaders have to learn the lessons I learned the hard way.

But, if you stop and recognize that your previous success is not a guarantee of success as a leader, you may win your battle against pride and in turn become the leader that others want to follow.

Dig Deep Questions:

  • When have you seen a new leader’s past success go to their heads?

  • What can you do to avoid the same situation?


Here is a quick assessment that will take you 5 minutes to figure it out. Nobody will ever see your results but you.

Warning: If you are not going to be honest with yourself this is a worthless assessment.

To take the assessment use the QR code above or go to

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