How Does Barack Obama Keep His Ego in Check?

As the former President of The United States of America, Barack Obama usually wrestles with the issue of how and what next in almost everything he does. There is absolutely one thing he cannot do: Make it personal – the precise mistake that his predecessor, Lyndon B. Johnson made when escalating the war in Vietnam.

Personalisation is not the same as passion

Yes, we need to be clear about this. As leaders, we need to have the conviction in what we do; we need to love our work and the people who do it. That in itself is passion. By contrast, personalisation is an excessive sense of self-pride and ego; it causes a loss of focus because the executive puts what he wants to do ahead of what the company should do. Personalisation is the enemy of the corporate world, and for that reason, you should avoid it.

In Obama’s case, let’s see what every leader must consider when making a decision that will carry  significant consequences.

How will this decision make things better for the organisation?

Consider how the decision will affect the organisation’s ability to fulfill its mission. Managers who push their teams to achieve “stretch goals” without providing adequate support and resources may be seeking to get noticed by their bosses rather than helping the company serve its customers. Such behaviour will have another side effect — talent retention. The answer to this question must enhance the organisation, not simply the resume of a particular manager.

How will this decision affect me?

When you are involved in a project, it is easy to entangle ego with the outcome. A healthy ego is necessary, but when too much ego makes you blind to obvious problems such as lack of resources, customer disinterest, and employee morale, problems arise. As we have seen with corporate executives in the financial sector, it isn’t positive when personal interest comes before corporate and public interest. In short, if the answer to this question is more in favour of you rather than the company, the issue may be over-personalized and requires more deliberation.

There is one aspect of personality leaders should possess, and that is compassion. Compassion is an emotion directed towards others compared to personalisation which focuses inwards.

Too much personalisation can be deadly, and keeping a check on it will help you navigate over treacherous issues with a clear and open mind, rather than one clouded by arrogance.


Check out Obama’s response on ego checks during the Obama Foundation’s “Inaugural Leaders: Asia-Pacific” Summit

Source: YouTube/Star TV News


Thank you, Barack Obama!