Ego is your self image. It is how you see yourself in relation to others and the world. Ego also includes the compulsion we feel to defend the image. The ego is not real. It is a concept, an idea. We have these thoughts and urges within us and we call it "ego". For something that is not real, the ego certainly gives us a lot of problems. The ego's role is to form and to protect the images you have of yourself. If you think you are a "good manager", then you will fight to protect that image whenever it seems threatened. If someone criticizes you, you will feel defensive. Your defensiveness will have you withdrawing or attacking, neither of which are healthy responses. The ego feels threat and reacts with fear. Whenever you feel threatened or fearful, your ego is in charge.

People react in negative ways because they feel threatened and unsafe. The best way you can manage this tendency is to make situations more safe. This means that you refrain from attacking others, because attack creates a situation where people feel threatened. If you can help yourself and others feel safe, you can join and move forward toward positive goals. In order to help others you must first manage your own tendencies to react in fear.

The first step to managing your ego is to step outside of it. Someone says something, you feel hurt or angry, stop. Step outside of yourself and ask yourself what is happening. For example, someone is criticizing your leadership and your are feeling threatened. You want to put him in his place. Step outside of your emotions for a moment. Observe that this is the drama that is playing out, and that you don't have to immerse yourself in it. As you observe the drama, move to step two. Outside of winning this fight or proving him wrong, what do you want? What do you want to come of this interaction? The second step is to clarify what you want.

If you answer this question honestly, you will go beyond winning or avoiding losing, or putting someone in their place. While these ego goals may seem satisfying at first, they get in the way of what you really want. What you want is to resolve a problem, or to improve a relationship, or to gain an opportunity---if you follow your ego urges, will that help you to achieve what you really want? By questioning the goals of the ego (winning, putting someone else in his place, making someone wrong, putting yourself in the clear, preserving your image, etc.) you allow yourself to reset the situation. You can then create a worthwhile goal where others may join with you.

Let's replay. Someone criticizes your leadership. You feel angry and offended, but you stop and observe. You know that if you respond with defensiveness or attack, it won't change anyone's mind. It will only seem to substantiate their claim. So instead you acknowledge how the other person is feeling (Step three). You might say: "You have a problem with my decision. Help me to understand." Fully listen to what people are saying. Can you see their point of view? Can you validate anything they are saying? What does this person need from you? Listening and understanding is step four.

Once you have listened to and acknowledged your understanding of what was said, do what you can to move forward toward the goal.
Ask in your mind: "What needs to happen right now in order to move forward?" Get quiet and listen within your mind. Allow your higher mind to guide you. Whether you call this higher mind Intuition, Spirit, Higher Self, or God, or something else, listen. When you get your fear out of the way answers begin to come. Once you feel clear about what needs to happen, take action. Taking action toward the goal is step six.

When you refrain from attacking and defending; when you listen to others and understand; and when you clarify a goal that is for everyone's benefit, you create a climate that feels safe. People become more willing to work with you. They trust you more.

You don't need to assert yourself in order to lead well. You need to forget yourself. If it's all about you, defending your image, proving your worth, asserting your superiority, or being right, then you cannot lead successfully. If you trust in your ability to lead, then you don't have to prove or defend anything. The image of being a good leader is unnecessary when you focus, instead, on leading well. Just lead. Step up and address issues honestly and take action. If you made a mistake or hurt someone, apologize and reset the goal. Clarify what you want to come of the situation and what you are doing to get there.

Summarizing the steps for managing your ego:
Someone disagrees, criticizes, or otherwise challenges you.
1. If you are reacting with anger or hurt, feeling threat--notice your emotional state. Observe it.
2. Clarify what you really want.
3. Acknowledge the other person(s) and ask them to tell you what they think and feel.
4. Listen and understand.
5. Get quiet and listen within. Let your intuition speak.
6. Trust your inner wisdom and take action as needed.

Background on the ego: The term "ego" comes from the English translations of the work of Freud. Freud used the term: "Das Ich", which means "the I". Ego is a Latin term meaning "I myself". In Freud's writings he depicted the Id, the ego, and the super ego. Briefly, the Id includes basic drives and passions. The super ego is one's conscience, punishing us with guilt when we do "wrong". The ego is in the middle, managing the desires of the id and protecting itself from and trying to please the perfectionism of the super ego. The term "ego" has changed over the years in English to include all three terms.

Author's Bio: 

William Frank Diedrich is a speaker, executive coach, and the author of three books including, Beyond Blaming. For more information on his work or to inquire about speaking and coaching call 517-388-3735, check his websites at and, or write to him at .