Ego can be a dangerous thing. Ego can seem similar to confidence –– a willingness to think and be different, to be obstinately fixed on your goal no matter how bad things seem. Ego leads us to be inflexible, and dig in our heels when the world is asking us to change.
The difference between ego and stubborn confidence is that when your actions come from your oversized ego, they will come from your sense of self-importance above others, rather than from your knowledge that what you're doing is right. It can be harmful to the teams you work on, and can become a self-inflicted wound to your brand.
Here are three mistakes stemming from ego that can weaken your branding, and easy ways to keep yourself from being hurt by your own ego.
Telling the Customer What They Want
It is possible to access more information than ever about your customers. Using this data can design marketing that will be completely suited to what you believe the customer will want. Using research and your intuition, it can be possible to understand what your customers want before they’ve even imaged it –– Steve Jobs was able to do this with the iPhone, for example.
Ego doesn’t give you this kind of visionary insight, though. Ego is uniformed, and can lead you to believe that you just know what customers want, without thinking about it deeply, or consulting with others. Great innovation can start with intuition, but ego relies on intuition alone.
Rather than relying on your ego, use social media and review sites to listen to the customers. They will tell you the next biggest product: you just need to create it. Emily Weiss, the founder of direct-to-consumer cosmetics brand Glossier, used Twitter and Instagram to have conversations with customers, and understand what they wanted. This not only led the company to create products that spoke to their customers; it also created a strong community of fans who were loyal and passionate about the brand.
Social media is a uniquely good place to build community –– use that to your advantage. Be open to finding out more about your customers on social media platforms. We all come to social media to learn about and be connected to others. Taking your ego out of the picture can make it easier to connect with your customers on a human-to-human level.
Trying to be a Master of All Trades
You don’t have to know everything in order to be successful. Having a master-of-all-trades mindset can actually lead you to be less effective than if you specialize, and accept that you will have weaknesses. The best leaders are able to accept this. They admit their gaps in their skills, learn from their mistakes, listen to their employees, and delegate tasks to those who are more qualified to get the job done right.
This final point –– delegation –– presents a particularly strong challenge to the ego. We might tell ourselves that we don’t delegate because we don’t trust others to do things correctly, or because we know that we would be able to do them better, but the real hurdle to delegation can often be an emotional one.
When you don’t delegate tasks and keep all the work for yourself, it can make you feel that you are more indispensable and passionate than those around you. Failing to delegate also feeds into our feelings that our work is inherently better than others, which has been described as “self-enhancement bias,” although it could also be thought of as having a big ego. When you don’t delegate, you degrade the trust you have in your team, and overwhelm yourself.
Remember that delegation is a skill. Work hard at putting your own feelings of importance aside, and remember that you hired your employees for a reason. Empower your employees to take full ownership over the tasks delegated to them, rather than asking them to “help out” with something you’re doing. This will leave them feeling more passionate, and leave you feeling more in control of your own priorities.
Ignoring Market Trends
If your ship is heading towards an iceberg, you should change your course and prepare the lifeboats. Accepting that your current path of action isn’t working out –– even if it isn’t working for reasons out of your control –– is vital for leaders.
Ego is what will tell you to stick to your current path as you hurdle towards the iceberg. Ego makes you feel that only things that have worked in the past will bring you success in the future. This isn’t the case, though: market trends change fast, and customers always want something new. Holding on to what has worked in the past will prevent you from innovating, and innovation is vital to overcoming obstacles and growing your success.
This doesn’t mean you should jump on every trend that comes your way. It takes some discernment to see what sticks, and what’s just a flash in the pan. To tell the difference, leave ego behind, and turn to others to understand how things look to your customers and employees. Consider input from experts and market research to round things out. This will help you make decisions based in reason, rather than ego.
Social media companies tend to be the most nimble when it comes to following trends. Tik Tok has popularized short-form video content, leading similar short-form content to appear on YouTube and Instagram. Meanwhile, Tik Tok has plans to begin hosting longer-form content similar to what’s found on YouTube. These brands remain relevant because they’re willing to follow customer interests, even if that means making big changes to what their company is about.
Confidence is crucial, but ego is not. Learning to be curious about your customer, to be trusting of your team, and to be willing to change, are great ways to keep confidence from turning into an arrogant ego.