Can a Big Ego Derail Your Success in Business?

“Big Names” in business and politics often bomb in public appearances. Woman holding a picture frameHave you wondered how this happens and if their egos get in the way of their good sense?

Ego is OK in Small Doses

All of us are egotistical to some degree – meaning we are self-centered and sometimes come across as self-important. Who doesn’t want to walk into a room confident that she is the best-dressed guest at the party? But having a big ego in business can derail your success.

It’s egotistical to “wing it” at a presentation without doing the proper advance preparation. It was arrogant of Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo, to keep advertisers waiting for two hours at a dinner planned especially for her.

As reported in The Wall Street Journal, “Interpublic Group arranged a private dinner at the swanky Cannes restaurant L’Oasis for Ms. Mayer to meet executives from marketers such as Mondelez International, brewer MillerCoors and Greek yogurt maker Chobani. It was supposed to be a chance for Interpublic and some of its clients to get a first hand update from Ms. Mayer on what Yahoo has to offer.”

Several dinner attendees left before she arrived, and when she finally got there, Mayer gave the excuse that she had fallen asleep. Why didn’t she instruct her aides to wake her?My Or Your Way Keys Show Conflict Or Disagreement It takes a big ego to arrive two hours late and expect companies you depend on for advertising revenue to be waiting for you. Advertisers expect the media to cater to them and not the other way around.

Often CEOs feel they can walk in at the last minute and just talk off the cuff. But their audience will quickly know they’re not prepared when they start rambling without any clear focus.

Unprepared speakers are not only rude but attendees will likely feel offended that the presenter didn’t care enough to address their needs. These speakers don’t win the crucial likeability upfront that gets the audience on their side.

You Can Never “Wing It”

Director Michael Bay had a meltdown after the teleprompter died during his presentation introducing Samsung’s 150-inch CurveTV at the Consumer Electronics Show. Totally flustered, he said, “I’ll just wing this,” which was a very bad idea.

He couldn’t answer the simple question, “Tell us what you think,” and walked off the stage. As the paid spokesperson for Samsung, Bay should have been prepared and practiced his key messages. Why wasn’t he advised about what to do if there was a blip on stage?

See for yourself in this video that went viral and got lots of press:

Many people are oblivious about how their oversized egos reflect poorly on them. We received a call from a client the other day asking for our help in coaching a very talented engineer who was oblivious to the fact that he was turning off everyone with his big ego. Even though he got his work done, he would disappear for hours at a time, with a total lack of self-awareness of its impact on others on his team.

A friend recounted a story of attending a special reception for former Secretary of State Madeline Albright on the occasion of her new book about her famous collection of pins. She was an hour late. It didn’t endear her to the audience.

People with big egos feel they don’t have to observe social rules such as being on time and saying “please” and “thank-you.”

The Right Way

We were fortunate to attend recent a corporate conference where General Colin Powell, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and former Secretary of State, was the keynote speaker. colin-powell-smHe had immersed himself in the culture of the company and listened to every presenter who preceded him. Then he wove some of their remarks into his talk.

He was approachable and pleasant. What a joy. He knocked it out of the park on stage, which is why he is in such demand as a speaker – and well worth the fee he commands.

If you’re a CEO or senior executive delivering a presentation, model yourself after Colin Powell and understand that it’s not about you. It’s about your audience. Don’t let your ego get in the way, like the CEO of Yahoo, and jeopardize your company’s success.

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The Newman Group is a recognized leader in guiding business professionals, celebrities and authors to improve their communications skills in presentations and media interviews.

Our highly skilled and experienced professionals have the expertise in media and presentation training to meet any business situation — from helping an executive to prepare for the challenge of talking to a reporter during a business crisis to presenting a group of investors during an IPO or keeping a celebrity spokesperson on point.