Although the word ego often carries a negative connotation - as in egocentric or egotistical -- in actuality, the ego has both positive and negative aspects.
From the positive perspective, ego simply means a solid, healthy and strong sense of self. Ego in this regard is essential in business. To be a powerful force in business means the individual has to be solid and self-reliant. Though a big ego is usually considered to be a negative trait, in fact, the bigger the ego, the better.
Big ego doesn't mean you're stuck-up or conceited; rather it means you are able to access within yourself the truth in any given situation. This involves reason, discernment and balance, even in the most tumultuous and challenging times.
All too often though, what is meant by a big ego entails a bull-headed, narrow-minded, arrogantly self-centered attitude.
These are people who are unable and unwilling to humble themselves. Other perspectives are not seen as a worthwhile opportunity for further exploration but are rather obstacles to be overcome. In such cases, the ego insists that the person has to be right at all costs. Being wrong is experienced as an annihilation of their self-worth. Success is seen as proving the ego is right and all contradictory perspectives are incorrect.
What most think of as a big ego, is actually a small ego - a need to make up for our sense of inadequacy by forcefully, domineeringly or self-righteously presenting ourselves to others.
When we understand the dynamics of the ego in this way, it opens the door to a more admirable and effective means of behaving. We can be strong, confident and resourceful while concurrently being humble, un-opinionated and wise. We will no longer need to be right all the time and won't lose our balance when we are wrong. Mistakes are no longer humiliating, but instead are brushed aside with ease as we shift in a more favorable direction.
A strong ego, in a positive sense, is essentially paradoxical. It is solid, even invincible. It is focused, dedicated and unyielding. At the same time, a strong ego is completely flexible, unvested, reflective and free to move in a new direction without guilt, shame or fear of humiliation.
Although some people may feel that such flexibility is a sign of weakness and fallibility, it gains the respect of others. No one achieves respect by always having to be right or by always proving their point. Everyone makes mistakes. But when we can acknowledge the mistake without breaking stride or losing face, we can move forward without reservation. It's a very impressive thing. People may even call it egoless, when in reality the ego is so big and strong that it does not depend upon superficial parameters, like being right all the time.
The truth is that people long for a friend or business associate with this sort of ego. They're seen as an oasis in the desert of tumultuous storms and conflicts of the business environment. We naturally go to such people as a sounding board. We know they won't be vested in telling us how things should be from their perspective. Rather, they will openly and sincerely help us explore the situation so that we can find the truth within ourselves.
This kind of big ego person makes an ideal team member. They don't need to compete or prove themselves. They don't need to make another person look bad so they can look better.
It's almost as if their sense of self expands to include the group. They naturally live in an all-for-one, one-for-all state of mind. The idea of working in another's shadow doesn't even cross their mind. They don't rely on their position or status to feel okay about themselves. Their purpose is the purpose of the company. Their success is the success of everyone with whom they work.
Related: 8 Ways My Ego Killed My Business
So when we think of big ego, it's important to keep in mind it comes in two forms: healthy and unhealthy. An unhealthy ego depends upon status for the person to have a sense of self-worth. Such people are not truly respected; and therefore, do not make good business associates or leaders.
People with a healthy ego have a sense of their own inner self, independent of the conditions and circumstances of their lives. They are adaptable to the changing tides of the business world, and inspire the respect of others. They act as a guiding light. So perhaps we should all strive to develop our healthy ego so it can be as big as possible.