Ego — Books on a bookshelf of a software manager

Vincent Chu
3 min readJan 24, 2021
Photo: Creative Common License. Donald Clark.

When organizations look for leaders, not many would look for leaders with big egos. Yet when we look around, in companies or in society, we would undoubtedly label certain leaders as having big egos. Perhaps they’re somehow in their positions because their other qualities are more important to the success of the organization and people around them just learned to tolerate such behavior. Or perhaps they haven’t spent enough time doing self-introspection, and are completely oblivious to the fact that they are the egotistical maniac that everyone is pointing at.

Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other, J.F. Kennedy

As many of you know, I enjoy reading — I like learning from other people’s experiences so that I can be better without necessarily stumbling over the same obstacles that others have already written down. When I observed some obnoxious behaviors, I looked into myself and asked “Am I like that too? How do I make sure I won’t become like that”. This is how I got started reading about egotistical behaviors and writing down “note to self”.

On the topic of “ego”, part of the challenge is that the term is somewhat nebulous. I still remember a long time ago when I first encountered the word in a workplace setting, I was happily regurgitating to myself definitions like ID, superego and other concepts from my psychology classes. While that’s the root of how the term “ego” comes to be, clearly its application is now much broader.

The definition that resonates with me is illustrated by this article — an egotistical leader believes he/she is always right, and if there is data suggesting the opposite someone else must have been wrong. I once encountered a leader who tries to redefine a word in the dictionary to prove that he’s right (no this is not a language issue, he’s a native English speaker)! Knowing this, I constantly remind myself that I am not and should not be the smartest person in a room (and definitely not always right) — it is so important to actively listen to and trust the great people on the team.

Ego is the enemy of good leadership

This HBR article discusses why Ego Is the Enemy of Good Leadership. One practise that I agree strongly with is no matter how busy you are, always find time to…

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Vincent Chu
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I'm an engineering leader in a SAS company with more than 15 years of software industry experience.