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  • Sandy Burgham

Warning: Ego in Lockdown

Updated: Nov 16

So here we are in lockdown and those, like yourself, who have done their own work, and hopefully continue to do so, are in the best position to navigate through these difficult times.

Our intention through this period is to send our alumni a specific leadership reflection on a weekly basis, one that connects you back into the work you have done with Play CoLab. We are also encouraging alumni to be part of the conversation on our Play CoLab Facebook page where we will also post thoughts and reflections about what this situation might mean for the world and leadership. 


It seemed appropriate to devote this first lockdown post solely to our old friend Ego and what we are likely to see as leaders inevitably get pulled back into their egoic reactive selves.

Leadership through these times, whether remotely or in your own household, is not about what you are doing, it is about who you are being. And you will be surprised as to how self-mastery over your ego can transform any situation.


You might have already seen people behaving quite uncharacteristically – retreating to village mentality, xenophobia, risk aversion, finger-pointing, tittle-tattling, righteousness, defensiveness, going on the attack, passive-aggressiveness, passiveness, emotional meltdowns and so forth.


What is this about? – the ego has been rattled by this pandemic as it has been taken out of its comfort zone; so many things that once seemed a certainty and that gave the ego a sense of security have ended abruptly. Its need to “know things” and have a high degree of individual control over its life and future, as illusory as that may be, has been significantly thwarted, catapulting it into a place of fear.


Most of you have completed a Leadership Circle Profile so will be familiar with the behavioural aspects of the Reactive space. Remember that these Reactive Tendencies are helpful but when dialled up too high, they are counterproductive to the purpose-led Creative Competencies that also are present in most leaders.


Reactive Tendencies can sometimes masquerade as Creative Competencies but the underlying motivation is different. So for instance, someone high on Courageous Authenticity may be “telling it like it is” but actually their behaviour is driven from fear vs. love and the if can come across as criticism or arrogance.


So what might we expect to see?



  • Those with controlling tendencies whose deepest fear is failure might tend to overwork and get enormously frustrated and impatient with others, which will cause havoc with their ability to relate to others. They will find it enormously difficult to accept that they cannot control this situation (but they might attempt to try!)

  • Those with protecting tendencies, whose deepest fear stems from fear of vulnerability or irrelevance are likely to rationalise the situation, go to the intellect and sometimes appear either overly confident or emotionally devoid. These types can use knowledge as a weapon and so as can be expected this is where the conspiracy theorists will be playing.

  • Those with complying tendencies whose deepest fear is not being liked, are likely to want to help and support everyone else and actually put themselves, others or a situation at risk. They too might overwork resulting in a kind of martyrdom but because they have a need not to be rejected they would rather ‘go along to get along’ than make powerful, innovative decisions.

So what can you do?

Focus on your own work. While many people are focused on work – i.e. how they might work remotely and whether they actually have any work post-COVID-19 – what people often miss is that the real work is on themselves. When the outer world seems out of control the only thing we can control is our inner world. It is precisely at times of pandemic panic that the ego risks tripping individuals up. 


Look at your own Leadership Circle Profile in the Reactive Space and take a note where you rated yourself quite high (over the 50th percentile). And remember that if you rated yourself at zero, it likely to be a shadow (i.e “I am not that”).


Most of you have done the work on masks/shadows which forms a key part of our work at Play CoLab*. The reason we do so much groundwork on masks/shadows is that it’s a fast and effective way to gain mastery of the inner world. It is likely that this current global crisis which demands we lockdown, will pull people straight into projection and you may not escape this. Remember – whatever we cannot be will not let us be. 


This is the time to commit to your daily practices.

Journaling three pages a day and committing to a 15-minute meditation practise every day will help enormously. If you need us to email you the handouts again, get in touch.

These practices will support you to stay grounded and mentally and emotionally strong. If we all did them, it would have an enormous impact in the world.

Also, it is a great time to reconnect with those in your group. Some alumni groups are already doing this via group chat, but whichever way, it would be good to reach out and share observations and experiences.

Jenny and Sandy are also available if you feel virtual coaching over this time would be helpful and note that we have reduced our fee for Play CoLab alumni for this. Contact either Jenny or Sandy on if you feel coaching may be helpful.

We also have Jenna our GM who is undergoing coach training and Yolande who is available for any sort of pastoral care support you may need.


Stay safe and take care.

Sandy, Jenny and all at Play CoLab PS Please do follow us on Facebook and engage with us there. 

*NB we are using the lockdown time to create an online model of the masks/shadows work so stay tuned.

Here is a chart published by The Leadership Circle organisation to remind you of the behaviours in the Reactive space:



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