Fragile Ego and Leadership


What does it mean when someone is declared to have a fragile ego?  How can it be identified and what are the implications for those around that individual, in the workplace in particular? This podcast explores the signs and the impact of having someone with this form of behaviour in the workplace, and more at risk when that individual is in a management position.  We will explore both fragile egos and leadership along with the impact they have on each other, and as a result the risks and potential outcomes in the workplace.

Signs of a Fragile Ego

Our ego or self-esteem is how worthy we think we are. It’s part of our self-concept and self-image- how we view ourselves.”

“A person with a fragile ego has weak and inconsistent self-esteem. Their sense of self-worth is volatile and subject to the whims of life circumstances and others’ judgments.

Seeking validation from others is natural for humans. Our self-esteem is raised when others think highly of us. External validation builds internal validation.

Those with fragile egos, however, are over-reliant on external validation. Somehow, the external validation they receive doesn’t consolidate into internal validation that could make them less reliant on the former.

People with fragile egos have an unstable sense of self. They keep changing their opinions and behaviours to gain approval from others. Because their self-esteem rests on shaky grounds, they need continual reinforcement in the form of reassurance.”  (

Signs to Look Out for

The over-reliance of people with fragile egos on external validation makes them behave in peculiar ways. If you suspect someone you know has a fragile ego, the signs to look for are:

1. Defensiveness

We all get defensive from time to time, and usually for good reasons. But a person with a fragile ego gets defensive unnecessarily. They will overreact to the slightest perceived or honest criticism.

This happens because criticism shatters their ego. They constantly want to be praised by others because their self-worth heavily relies on other people.

2. Indecision

A person with a fragile ego lacks confidence. They struggle to make their own decisions. They constantly seek validation for their ideas, opinions, and decisions. If they’re on the verge of making what they think is a good decision, they may back out at the last moment because someone wasn’t on board with them.

3. Holding grudges

When people are hurt by those close to them, they’re likely to get over the hurt quickly. Their ego hardly gets bruised in the process.

In contrast, when you hurt someone with a fragile ego, you break the core of who they are. You destroy their whole world. Since their well-maintained ego is everything to them, they won’t forget your mistakes and will bring them up ages later.

4. Unable to handle failure

People with fragile egos can’t handle failure and take it harshly.1 They feel worthless if they fail because they think failure brings them down in the eyes of others. The last thing they want.

5. Perfectionism

People with fragile egos overcompensate for a weak and inconsistent self by deluding themselves into thinking they’re perfect beings. Beneath the mask of inflated self-image and narcissism lies a weak self-identity.

Perfectionism feeds into their fear of making mistakes and being seen as unworthy or less than perfect.

6. Closed to feedback

A person with a fragile ego is closed to negative feedback. They can’t stand it. As a result, they hardly improve. Again, admitting they need improvement would mean they’re less than perfect.

Their general attitude towards well-meaning advice by others is:

“Yeah, whatever.”

In the rare event where they listen to negative feedback, they take it personally. They interpret any feedback as a reflection of their self.2

If you tell them, “Your work was bad”, they’ll take it to mean, “You are bad”.

7. Impressing others

They jump at every opportunity to impress others. They’ll take on projects they’re unprepared for or will take charge in a situation where they shouldn’t have just so they can impress others.

They’ll go to great lengths to impress others so they can keep feeding their hungry ego.

The Crown brilliantly portrays the decline of the British monarchy – Season 4

Extract from the Article published in The Queen’s Journal.

The Crown is a brilliant exemplification of the outdated monarchy’s inevitable decline. One of the key themes in the series is the monarchy’s struggle to stay relevant in our changing society, a theme that is extremely prevalent in the real world. Portrayed by seasoned actors and adorned with stunning sets, the show portrays just how out of place the Royal Family is in a post-colonial world.

To be blunt, the role of this family is rooted in an image rather than real purpose. Queen Elizabeth’s defining struggle is learning how to do nothing but present the appearance of a God-like leader. Other members of the family are forced to suppress their individuality for the sake of public image, often forsaking love and happiness to do so.

As the Western world looks back on the era of colonialism and Eurocentrism with criticism rather than praise, questions of why the British monarchy is still functioning and living in such a lavish manner are undeniably present.”

Is Ego Destroying Leadership?

“There may be no greater barrier to effective leadership than ego. Left unchecked, your ego will undermine the hard work of everyone around you. It will prevent you from seeing what is right in front of your face and it will stop you from admitting your mistakes. Here are four reasons your ego is a threat to your leadership.”

  • You Don’t Know Everything
    • You don’t know everything but your ego can lead you to believe that you do.
  • You are Not Good at Everything
    • You are not good at everything but your ego won’t let you admit it.
  • You Are Not Better Than Others
    • You are no better than those around you but your ego wants you to believe that you are.
  • You cannot hear what others are saying
    • you can’t do it all on your own but your ego can prevent you from even hearing what others have to say.

Leadership is not about you.  It is about the people who you lead. Your ego is the biggest threat to your leadership.

The above quotes come from an article by Eizabeth Stincelli taken from a range of programmes that Elizabeth has written various papers on.  Liz holds a Doctor of Management degree with an emphasis on organizational leadership. I recommend that you read the above article in full, and if you have time, read as many as possible from the list of reference sources below.  One day, one or more of these topics may be something you need to explore further.

Ivy Barrow

27th November 2022



  • Does television cultivate narcissism? Relationships between television exposure, preferences for specific genres and sub clinical narcissism.

The 4 Ds of Narcissism: Deny, Dismiss, Devalue, Divorce

Narcissists and Trauma Bonding

His Majesty the Baby: Narcissism and Royal Authority

Richard III: Psychopath or Mere Control Freak,ego%20is%20the%20biggest%20threat%20to%20your%20leadership.