How to Overcome Ego & Win

“As you become the leader of a company, it’s about the success of that business rather than the success of you as an individual.”

Andrew Bartlow


CEO founders don’t seek out Andrew Bartlow and say, “My ego is too big. Fix me!” What tends to happen is that a team will talk to him about role clarity, while using the key phrase “it’s really frustrating”.


In today’s The Culture of Leadership (TCoT) Podcast Andrew is in no way saying we need to lose all of our ego and chuck it out the door. After all, he has never been accused of lacking his own ego. He just recognises that ego is a pretty consistent challenge that start-up founders run into and it holds them back from achieving true success.


Founders are the company and the company is them. As it grows or evolves it is like letting your children out of the house, or birds out of a nest. Much of the success of an early-stage business has to do with the founder. That’s the ego challenge. The solution is to create separation between the person and the entity that is the business.


Have you read: What is The Living Organisation – Norman Wolfe


Andrew Bartlow has 25 years of HR and talent management experience at organizations across a wide spectrum of sizes, maturity stages, and industries. He leads Series B Consulting, which helps businesses to articulate their people strategy and accelerate their growth, while navigating rapid change. He also founded the People Leader Accelerator, which is the preeminent development program for start-up HR leaders. Andrew is also the co-author of Scaling for Success: People Priorities for High-Growth Organizations.


There are two somewhat light-hearted archetypes that Andrew refers to in his book: The Prophet and the Mule Driver.


The Prophet is a high-level visionary on execution. Think long white beard, standing on a mountain top with the staff, talking about big ideas. They are incredible visionaries who were able to attract capital, investment and employees through the power of that vision. Evolution and decision making becomes a challenge in that archetype, which leads to spinning and frustration by the team, as the Prophet doesn’t leave the mountain and get into the weeds.


The Mule Driver is the opposite. They want to own and control everything and make all the decisions. Think someone sitting on a cart with a number of donkeys chained up and they are cracking the whip. A Mule Driver makes the decisions on where to go, how fast and when they are going. They might treat the donkey’s really well, but the mule driver is the sole decision maker. This can lead to inability to delegate. The challenge with this archetype is the Mule Driver doesn’t look outside for help very often.


Another archetype that Andrew refers to is the Snowflake, as well as the ego trap associated with holding on to the past for too long, looking good to others, looking good specifically to employees and looking good to investors. Each of these areas can have some risks and downsides, so just being aware can really help a founder.


Have you read: The Art of Self-Mastery – RJ Singh


As the founder of three of his own businesses, Andrew is authentically living the journey and walking in the shoes of the founders that he advises. This certainly helps him have conversations with founders and help them realise that it is actually ok that people in the organisation will never love the business as much as they do.


Click here to listen to today’s The Culture of Leadership (TCoT) Podcast, where Andrew and Brendan discuss overcoming ego and winning. Don’t ‘fall in love with forks’ – it is time to deal with the symptoms and move through the process to find solutions.

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