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Why ego is the enemy of good leadership | Lessons for Leaders


Nicole Rogas, president of symplr, talks about the importance of hearing diverse opinions, helping employees feel supported, and unifying teams around a vision.

For healthcare leaders, having a big ego can be more than a character flaw.

Image credit: symplr

Nicole Rogas, president of symplr, says ego is the enemy of good leadership, because it stifles creativity and innovation.

If leaders aren’t humble, they can damage their own organizations, says Nicole Rogas, president of symplr, a company that offers cloud-based technology solutions for hospitals.

Rogas contends that the ego is the enemy of good leadership. In an interview with Chief Healthcare Executive®, Rogas says she is “very passionate about the topic.”

“When you get into a position of leadership, you have an obligation then to empower and support, and create an environment where teams can thrive and reach their greatest potential,” she says. “And I believe that it's through that building of incredible teams and culture that you treat your customers with a different level of engagement, which then creates growth and profitability for your business.”

Leaders, especially those in senior leadership positions, need to avoid the trap of thinking they know everything.

“That ego actually can get in the way of innovation and can get in the way of creative thinking,” Rogas says.

“Because if folks don't feel comfortable and confident and respected in their workplace, and they don't feel that they have the ability to challenge you as a leader or disagree with your point of view, they become ‘yes people’. And that's really the killer of innovation, if you ask me,” she says.

Putting yourself second

Rogas argues that humility is an essential component of leadership. She extols the value of “being a leader who puts yourself second.”

Leaders should be confident to hire people who may have different abilities and may be stronger in certain areas. Rogas says that leads to teams that feel empowered to achieve.

She says her job as a leader is to listen to different views to help make the best decision, “and then unify the group to go on whatever we decide, even if that means it doesn't have full agreement with everyone in the room.”“So your job as a leader is to have a low ego for yourself, but it is to have confidence and strength and command to be able to drive the team forward,” she says.

To get a variety of opinions, Rogas talks about the importance of hiring a diverse mix of people in the organization.

“Diversity can mean a lot of different things: gender, race, experiences, age,” she says.

And Rogas says assembling a diverse team can go hand-in-hand with building a cohesive unit.

“You need to have people with a different perspective sitting at the table,” she says. “It's those different sets of perspectives that creates this environment of a conversation, of debate, of strategizing.”

“And you will get ideas that a room of individuals who have the same experiences, or similar career tracks, or similar roles along the way, or similar upbringings, for that matter, won't think about things outside of the box.”

Employees need to know that they can speak up and offer a contrarian view, which can possibly reveal flaws in a strategy, Rogas says.

If workers don’t feel comfortable disagreeing, or at least raising a question, then problems may not be discovered. “You miss an opportunity to make a tweak to your strategy or your vision that really might make a massive impact 6 or 12 months from now,” Rogas says.

While soliciting opinions that differ from her own, Rogas says the disagreements can’t linger outside of the meeting.

“I always say we debate in front of each other,” she says. “We disagree in front. We do not walk out of this room and say something. You say it right here, right now, all of us together. That's it. And that's just the culture I set. And we do that.”

And when Rogas says she’s made a decision, then she expects the support of the team. She also says it’s easier to build trust when the team has been empowered to speak up and feel as if they’re being heard.

“If your team trusts you, your team respects you, and at the end of the day, your team believes that if you make a decision, there is a greater reason behind that decision, for the most part, they understand it. If they have those first two, that trust and that belief, they will follow, they will do what they can to follow that and to make it successful,” Rogas says.

‘Profits and purpose’

As a leader, Rogas says that both “profits and purpose matter.” Employees need to feel as if they are part of something vital and that their organization cares about their best interests.

“I have a fiduciary responsibility, to run a really great business and to operate as efficiently as I can,” Rogas says. “But I also have a responsibility to the folks that choose to come to work at our company, every single day and dedicate a big chunk of their life to this business.”

If leaders empower and invest in their workers, and it’s genuine, Rogas says, employees will see it.

“People believe in it, people follow it,” she says. “And as a result of that followership, you have the ability to run and create a really successful business.”

Employees also will look elsewhere if they don’t believe in the leader’s vision.

“If folks in your organization, especially your high performers, if they don't see vision, if they don't believe in where you are going, you as a leader, and where your company is going, if they don't believe that you genuinely are operating with their best interests in mind, they will de-motivate,” she says. “And that de-motivation will then separate them from the business and eventually you lose really great talent. Because really great talent wants to feel like they're making an impact along the way.”

Leaders need to balance driving a sense of vision and mission with the obligations to manage the finances of the organization wisely.

“When you see companies go through transitions, when there's large pockets of attrition, it's usually because there's some disbelief in their ability to make an impact, and that's usually coming from an unbalanced leadership approach at the top,” she says.

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