Behavioral MetaDYNAMICS – Ego Position

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BmD: Capability: Part 5 – Ego Position

Ego Position

  • Opportunist

  • Diplomat

  • Expert

  • Achiever

  • Individualist

  • Strategist

  • Alchemist

  • Ironist

In this next component of CAPABILITY, I will refer to it as
Ego Position rather than Ego Complexity, but I believe the
position emerges from the "complexity" of the ego as described
by various modelers. The model which we will use as a central
guideline will be the Loevinger/Cook-Greuter Model of Ego

What is the Ego?

Ego - Image: historicair - Wikimedia commons

"According to Freud, the ego is part of personality
that mediates the demands of  the id, the superego
and reality. The ego prevents us from acting on our basic
urges (created by the id), but also works to achieve a
balance with our moral and idealistic standards (created
by the superego). While the ego operates in both the
preconscious and conscious, its strong ties to the id
means that it also operates in the unconscious. The ego
operates based on the reality principle, which works to
satisfy the id’s desires in a manner that is realistic and
socially appropriate. For example, if a person cuts you
off in traffic, the ego prevents you from chasing down the
car and physically attacking the offending driver. The ego
allows us to see that this response would be socially
unacceptable, but it also allows us to know that there are
other more appropriate means of venting our frustration."

What is Ego Complexity?

Jane Loevinger’s stages of ego development
a theory of ego development that was based on Erikson’s
psychosocial model’, as well as on the works of Harry Stack
Sullivan, and in which ‘the ego was theorized to mature and
evolve through stages across the lifespan as a result of a
dynamic interaction between the inner self and the outer
environment’ Her theory is significant in contributing to the
delineation of ego development, which goes beyond
fragmentation of trait psychology and looks at personalities
as meaningful wholes.

What is Ego Autonomy?

A common misunderstanding is in place these days about the
nature of Ego and the importance of its development. It is
commonly misidentified with the concept of egocentrism: the
selfish or "bigheaded" personality, which is actually a trait
of a person with a weak and undeveloped Ego. In fact this
misunderstanding is the result of mis-translation. The
definition of Ego in the west was set by Freud. If you read
Freud in the original German, he calls the Ego the Ich (the
German word for ‘I’). In Latin, the word Ego means ‘I’.
Without an I you cannot be anything in the real world we live
in. – Gregory Mitchell

Boiling Down Ego Position

Obviously, anything related to ego work encompasses a lot more
than most leaders "bargain for."

However, there are some very simple suggestions that provides
"fog-clearing" around ego position.

First off, I like to use the term "ego position" rather than
other terms because as a meta-model, position makes the
assumption there are many, that is one helpful distillation.

If there are many ego positions, then what is mine?

Remember, we are looking for things that work without a lot of
attention because the attention we have as a leader is so much
in demand that we need things going on behind the scenes to
scaffold our attention, as well as our intention.

One thing I have tried to do is to offer you tools that have
enough substance because metrics are available.

Ego Position offers us the ability to surface measurements of
our ego (development) position as well as work in and on the
position over time. The assessment that I believe works well
for leaders is the Sentence Completion Test, first developed
by Loevinger and then later evolved through the research of
Susanne Cook-Greuter.

Ego position is important for leaders

Why it’s important is that the entire notion of who we are is
wrapped up in the concept of CAPABILITY, both what capability
is now, what it has been and where capability is working with
us to be, do, have, become and contribute, as leaders…to
help people have lives.

Position is plural…

Because there are a number of positions that leaders find
themselves in related to conditional requirements, we don’t
always live, work or play from the same position, but develop
a "working" center of gravity. This is also important to
understand. Like all the components in CAPABILITY DYNAMICS,
ego position has a range where our concept of "I" is

Ego Development Descriptions from The Sentence Completion

For the sake of brevity, here are some brief descriptions, ©
Paul Landraitis

Impulsive: Avoid Pain and Danger, (Impulses
rule reflexes) Seek Pleasure, Release

Opportunist: Own Needs, Self-(Needs rule
impulses) Interest, Self-Protection

Diplomat: Socially Desirable (Norms rule
needs) Behavior, Belonging

Expert: Craft Logic, Consistency & (Craft
logic rules Efficiency, Rationality norms)

Achiever: Results, Goals & Plans (System
effectiveness Objective Reality rules craft logic)

Individualist: Own Ability to have Impact,
(Radical relativism Multiple Perspectives rules single system

Strategist: Development Over Time, (Most
valuable Systems Thinking principles rule relativism)

Magician: Transforming Self & Others (Deep
processes Interplay of awareness, rule principles) action,
thought, and effect

Ironist: (Inter-systemic development rules

And another from a graphic in an article in the Harvard
Business Review:

Parting Thoughts:

Being able to objectify ego position is an important part of
CAPABILITY DYNAMICS, and being able to "language" this
objectivity both internally as self-talk as well as externally
in dialogue with others may be the gift that keeps on giving
regarding Ego Position.

Join me in our discussion of languaging in the next


I hope you pick up valuable insights, ideas and tools during
this process, which you can use for your own

development as well as your work and leadership with others.

If you have comments, please feel free to leave them here on the blog.

You, Me, and We @F-L-O-W

Mike R. Jay is a developmentalist utilizing consulting,
coaching, mentoring and advising as methods to offer
developmental scaffolding for aspiring leaders who are
interested in being, doing, having, becoming, and
contributing… to helping people have lives.

PS: To learn more about our 2015 Program,
Behavioral MetaDYNAMICS and to enroll in the experience,


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