Our EGO is our made up identity. Ego comes from the Latin word meaning “I”. According to Freud, it has primarily two needs: to be right and defend itself. Its major drives: sex and aggression. (I think he had males more in mind with his theories) This correlates to testosterone which supplies men with sexual drive and aggression. When too much is produced it can get one in trouble in the way of violence driven behavior. When healthy, the ego mediates drives for sex in healthy ways – ie in a committed relationship or in “healthy” and socially appropriate ways. Aggression is channeled productively into work or meaningful accomplishments in sustainable ways.
Psychologists after Freud believed that the our egos have higher level needs such as a need for meaning and purpose. (Frankel) When our basic safety and shelter needs are met, affiliation needs become very important. When affiliation needs are met, the higher levels needs for meaning purpose and individuation become more important. (Maslow, Rollo May)
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So what does this have to do with leadership?
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The foundation for conscious leadership is to be aware. To be aware of self, others, what really matters, and as much as possible to the larger world in which we play and work. When the ego is immature, we are selfish. “It is all about me” which is an egocentric orientation. In the next stage of ego development we care about: our family, tribe, company, political party, religion, etc. the focus is more “ it is about us“ This is an ethnocentric point of view. The third stage of ego development is a much larger sense of “I” . “I care about all of us.” This is a world-centric orientation – A movement from identifying with race, political, party, religion etc, to a fuller awareness that I am not only: a white male or female, Christian or Jewish, black or white, Hispanic, Democrat or Republican but an American and; ultimately a human like everyone else. In a Spiritual sense it is “feeling” or realizing a shared connection to all people and with all of life. Desmond Tutu embodies this awareness with his teaching that “we are all family!”
The sense of separation and feeling disconnected has gotten us in trouble. Since the ego always wants more and more, has a need to be right and defend itself, it can never be satisfied. No amount of material wealth, power or privilege will ever be enough. Almost like a hungry ghost – always consuming – never satisfied. Elkhart Tolle states ” The biggest fear of the ego is: The truth! This feeling of isolation and disconnect from self, others and the transcendent leads to consumerism and looking to the outside for validation and worth.