Monday, January 21, 2013

Excessive Ego–A Recipe For Disaster

I became aware this morning of another company that I had connections with that is in the process of going under.

Sadly, it had followed a recipe for disaster that I have seen so many companies follow.

Recipe for Corporate Failure



  • Intelligent strategy
  • Sharp tactical roadmaps
  • Relevant, measurable outcomes
  • Leadership humility / self-confidence balance
  • A sense of personal and professional ethics and morals


  • Excellent intention
  • Powerful vision
  • Well-developed product
  • Strong market demand
  • Phenomenally intelligent, passionate team
  • Strong market dominance potential


1. Ignore the crust recipe completely.  Foundational stuff that ties everything else together is overrated anyway.

2. Mix all the filling ingredients in a baking dish.

3. When all ingredients have become a sticky mess, proceed anyway even though the result is now predictable (at least from everyone else’s perspective).

4. Bake under high heat and pressure until everything melts into an indiscernible mess.

5. Fire may break out at this time.  This is normal and anticipated and should be ignored.  Such warning signs are for the weak and paranoid.

6. Recipe can still be saved by quickly stirring in balanced amounts of self-confidence and humility and then asking for help. Skip this step for any number of unjustifiable reasons.

7. Act surprised or play the victim when a smoking mess comes out of the oven.

8. Ignore the people who stood by you through thick and thin but were poisoned by the recipe. They didn’t matter anyway.  Better yet – blame the poor result on them if possible.

9. Discard the result, clean up everything, rename the recipe and then repeat with the anticipation that doing the exact same thing over and over will eventually produce a different, more desirable result.

Optional step: Use social media to generate buzz espousing your “success” model.  Call it “The Secret To …” or “The X Steps to Instant Wealth” for higher impact.  Another useful exercise is to cite a “spiritual” or “enlightened”  reason why your failure was actually an anticipated stepping stone to changing the world.  In this way, you can rationalize that you didn’t fail – the world did because it hasn’t caught up to your enlightened way of executing yet.

The danger of excessive ego

I have written and spoken many times about the importance of having an appropriate blend of strong strategy, sharp tactical roadmaps and relevant measurable outcomes in order to create success.

I have watched many companies go under without an appropriate blend of these items.

But the one reason for company failure that kills me the most is when excessive levels of ego cause a company’s leadership to choose corporate death over accepting help of any kind.

Insufficient ego leaves one a doormat to be stepped on by everyone.

But excessive ego is like a runaway train, killing everyone and everything in its path.

Balance is the key … as always.

In many such failures, the leadership will go on to create other failures as their excessive ego also precludes them from learning from their mistakes.

Meanwhile, the great people within the dead organization and their families are left behind to sort out what happened, many times scrambling just to survive.

And that is the greatest injustice of all.

Do you as a leader have the right balance of humility and hubris?

How do you know?

In service and servanthood,


All people and companies appearing in

or referenced by this work

are not fictitious.

Any resemblance to real persons and companies,

living or dead, is purely intentional.

Don’t be one of them.


  1. Having excessive ego is like frosting the pan you forgot to bake the cake in first. Might look ok at first glance, but when you take a bite, it's obvious there's nothing there...

    For people, as with dining, balance and attention to how people are experiencing you is key. Without that, the experience is empty, or worse.

  2. Nicely put, Janice. :-)

    Thanks for sharing!

    Create a great day!