Workplace culture is fascinating, and I’ve been studying it a LOT lately. The top-down process just isn’t cutting it for most people nowadays, and I’ve been very intentional and purposeful about how I want to lead (not run) my three creative businesses. I take the responsibility and the title of CEO very personally, and work hard to make the most ethical yet practical decisions.
I’ve noticed a trend, though, in top tier management: their egos are huge! I blame my counseling background and fascination with people, but I tend to notice personality traits frequently. I’m always amazed at the egos of those in charge of running organizations or major projects, and I’ve come to a very real conclusion: your ego will always be the thing that trips you up. Your ego as a CEO, leader, whatever, will always be your downfall. And the first place this shows up is failing to acknowledge that you don’t know it all.
The past few weeks have been amazing. For both Modern Studio and Work Matters, I’ve somehow managed to put together teams that will rock everyone’s face off. And I’m extremely happy to say that THEY ALL KNOW MORE THAN ME. Good God that’s a relief — for the first time in almost a year I don’t feel overburdened with needing to know/learn/pretend to know everything. I can let others much more knowledgable and qualified take the lead.
That’s step 1: surround yourself with amazingly talented people. And it’s so easy. There’s a high you get knowing you were the one who assembled this dream team. But then you have to do step 2: set them free. It’s not enough that you find great folks to add to your team. You have to let them do their thing. It’s practically common knowledge that hiring the best and brightest and then stifling them is a terrible idea. But our egos, the thing that can flare up with every success, can get in the way here too. Our amazing teams won’t thrive and flourish if our egos refuse to step aside so the team can work their unique magic.
So, how on earth can you manage your own CE(g)O?
1. I remind myself frequently that a rising tide lifts all boats, I don’t want to do it all, and I can’t. Facing the reality of your mental capacity is important, as is remembering that collaboration over competition keeps you sane and your projects clean.
2. I remember being full of ideas, full of energy, and being shot down by managers or those in charge. I refuse to be the asshat that stifles other people’s creative energy so I can feel better about myself. Be a doll and do the same for your team.
3. Remember that you play an important role too. You know it, your team knows it. In any growing business, venture or project, the entity needs the spotlight, not you. So get over it and keep chugging along.
4. Set your intentions, values & ethics. Being a great leader is important to me. This doesn’t just mean giving people opportunities, but inspiring them to think, try things, and take risks while having their back. This is something I check in on every single day, and you should too.
5. Finally, if your ego is so bruised by the amazing things your team is doing/creating/saying/making, then perhaps you should be doing/creating/saying/making more. The ego can be a great tool for checking our own productivity. When you have your own responsibilities as the fearless leader, and you’re actively hustling, your ego won’t have time to take a look around and pout. So if all else fails, get your own ass to work.