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Golden Oldies: Power, Arrogance And MAP

Monday, August 7th, 2017

It’s amazing to me, but looking back over more than a decade of writing I find posts that still impress, with information that is as useful now as when it was written.

Golden Oldies are a collection of what I consider some of the best posts during that time.

Last week we started looking at our heroes — first as cowboys and then why/how they needed to change. It’s a timely subject, especially considering the attitudes/actions of so many of our current ones — from Donald Trump to Travis Kalanick and all those inbetween.

Read other Golden Oldies here.

I recently questioned whether, in fact, the imperial CEO is indeed dead as many are saying.

Wednesday Dan McCarthy was inspired to write 10 Ways to Avoid the Arrogance of Power after reading The Arrogance of Power by Jeffrey Pfeffer, a Professor of Organizational Behavior at Stanford Business School. Pfeffer says,

“The higher you go in an organization, the more those around you are going to tell you that you are right. The higher reaches of organizations–which includes government, too, in case you slept through the past eight years–are largely absent of critical thought. … There is also evidence, including some wonderful studies by business school professor Don Hambrick at Penn State, that shows the corroding effects of ego. Leaders filled with hubris are more likely to overpay for acquisitions and engage in other risky strategies. Leaders ought to cultivate humility.” He ends by advising not to hold your breath waiting for this to change.”

I think much of Dan’s advice is good, but I won’t hold my breath waiting for the advice to be taken.

I think that power corrupts those susceptible to it, not all those who have it; there are enough examples of powerful people who didn’t succumb to keep me convinced.

Susceptibility is woven in MAP (mindset, attitude, philosophy™) and is especially prevalent in today’s society of mememememememe with its sense of entitlement.

Changing MAP and stopping drinking are similar, since the individual has to choose to change. All the horses and all the men can’t convince the king to change—that only happens from the inside out.

Moreover, as I’ve frequently said, MAP is sneaky; it will pretend to change and then revert to its normal pattern when no one’s looking.

We, the people, can’t force them to change, but we can learn to sustain our attention span and keep looking.

Image credit: flickr

Golden Oldies: Narcissism And Leadership

Monday, August 29th, 2016

It’s amazing to me, but looking back over a decade of writing I find posts that still impress, with information that is as useful now as when it was written. Golden Oldies is a collection of what I consider some of the best posts during that time.

I wrote this post back in 2009 and since then the number of narcissistic leaders in all walks has exploded. It’s literally a global epidemic, with tech leading (pun intended) the way, although the current crop of politicians is still out front. Read other Golden Oldies here.

narcissus“Leaders tend to be narcissistic, but you don’t have to be a narcissist to be a leader.” –Amy Brunell, assistant professor of psychology at Ohio State University’s Newark campus.

“…narcissistic behavior is a “trait predicting charismatic leadership. People who are charismatic and charming… They think they’re entitled to it. They think they’re smarter than other people and they can get away with it.” –W. Keith Campbell, head of the psychology department at the University of Georgia in Athens.

Narcissism isn’t necessarily bad, but it is growing. When psychiatrists deemed it a bonafide personality disorder in the 1980’s it affected 1% of the population; in 2008 the number stood at around 6.2%.

Most politicians are narcissists, as are many media personalities (neither is surprising), but it seems that more and more business leaders fall in that category also.

There are 7 component traits that are measured.

  • Authority
  • Self-sufficiency
  • Superiority
  • Exhibitionism
  • Exploitativeness
  • Vanity
  • Entitlement

Although I have no proof, I bet that most, if not all, Wall Street honchos would score fairly high on these traits.

“A study published in December in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin found that people who score high in these traits are more likely to be leaders, but these individuals don’t necessarily perform any better and potentially may become destructive leaders.”

So much for the much-ballyhooed ‘charismatic leader’.

Now let’s have some fun.

Go to Take the Narcissistic Personality Inventory and take the test.

Then come back and share your score and whether you believe it fits you.

My score was 11, but if I had taken it 30 years ago I think it would have been at least 5 points higher. (Age is either mellowing me or I’m more realistic:)

There are no right or wrong answers and even if you score off the narcissism charts that doesn’t mean you’re ‘bad’—as with any trait it is how you handle it in everyday life that matters.

Happy Birthday Albert Einstein

Wednesday, March 16th, 2016


Are you smart? Are you impressed with those considered brilliant?

Do you look for signs of genius in your kids?

Can you really tell at an early age?

Monday was Albert Einstein’s 137th birthday.

Einstein was nicknamed “der Depperte” — the dopey one — by the family maid, because he was slow to learn to talk.

He couldn’t find a job teaching, so worked in the patent office in Bern, Germany, while he wrote some of his most important papers.

He was still there when he wrote the paper that underlies E=mc2.

He didn’t get an offer to teach for another four years — and almost didn’t accept because of the low salary and his description to a friend isn’t exactly complimentary.

“So, now I too am an official member of the guild of whores.”

Although Einstein’s family knew he was famous that didn’t understand why. His answer when his son asked him offers great insight to his attitude.

“When a blind beetle crawls over the surface of a curved branch, it doesn’t notice that the track it has covered is indeed curved. I was lucky enough to notice what the beetle didn’t notice.”

Entitlement was neither part of his life nor of his beliefs. He was a socialist and detested and fought the discrimination so rampant in his adopted US homeland.

He lived by his values, expeditious of not, and died by them, too, when he refused treatment (an attitude the “live forever tech crowd” should embrace).

“It is tasteless to prolong life artificially. I have done my share, it is time to go. I will do it elegantly.”

BI has a great overview of Einstein’s life that is well worth reading.

And after you’ve done so, take a look at how your own values stack up.

Image credit: Wikipedia

Entitlement on Steroids

Monday, July 13th, 2015

What’s the excuse these days for bad manners? Or no manners.

Click the video to see 11 seconds of 100% pure entitlement.

And self-absorbed doesn’t begin to describe him.

“New York Magazine reports the guy asked the ushers: “Well where can I charge it?””

YouTube credit: garruba1

Ducks in a Row: Fostering the Wrong Attitude

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013


Five years ago I wrote about a coaching assignment that was the result of the prevailing attitude of praising and rewarding kids. The manager had already had a similar conversation, but wanted the points driven home by a “third party expert.”

I had the dubious honor of explaining to a 28 year old why he didn’t get a bonus. I started by asking why he thought he deserved one, He said that

  • he hadn’t missed a day of work during the year and
  • had been on time every day;
  • all his assignments were completed on time; and
  • he’d done everything exactly as requested.

I spent 20 minutes explaining that 1) the things he listed were his job, what he’d been hired to do and for which, he agreed, he was fairly compensated and 2) the bonus was for people who had

  • gone beyond their job description;
  • shown imitative; and
  • offered help without being asked.

The result of the ‘double dose’ was apparent the following year when that young man won a sizable raise and a merit-based bonus—not always the typical reaction.

I thought about that experience when I read Losing is Good for You, but what really drove home the importance of changing the current paradigm was the comment from KJ, a 24 year old college grad.

I’m 24 and a college graduate, and my peers and I were constantly praised from kindergarten through college. Like in the article, we all got trophies and certificates of achievement in grade and middle school, high grades in high school (partially so we could get into good colleges) and good grades for just showing up to class in college.
Competitive skills are not inherently developed; they are learned. What we have now is a group of young people coming out of college and high school who are just discovering that it takes more than showing up to succeed in life, and it is in no small part due to the “everybody is special” culture that we were steeped in as adolescents.
(Emphasis added.)

However, what continues to amaze me is that after more than a decade in the workplace those who learned, changed and were promoted are still raising their kids as special, thus propagating the attitude.

And they do this while simultaneously bemoaning the entitled “it’s enough to show up” attitude of their new hires.

Flickr image credit: Ray Bouknight


Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

3203922211_0d55195a4f_mI know this sounds like a joke, but it really happened.

The comments below were part of a larger discussion regarding role, responsibilities and expectations.

The discussion was at the request of a boss as a final effort to turn a new hire around before the end of his probationary period.

It takes a lot to get to me, but 40 minutes into the conversation the words I uttered were pure sarcasm.

I said, “The world does not revolve around you.”

His response was real, honest and sincere.

After ten seconds of silence he said, “Oh.”

I said, “You as you are special to your parents, your love and some friends. Beyond that you must earn special status through your actions with each individual you meet and in every new situation throughout your life.”

This time the silence lasted closer to 20 seconds.

And then he again said, “Oh.”

Flickr image credit: Michelle Tribe

Salary Entitlement

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

Northern California startup land is once again the Golden State for new grads—especially those with a strong sense of entitlement.

And I do mean golden.

Lattice Engines, a small San Mateo startup, where she makes “near the top” of the company’s $80,000 to $130,000 range for an entry level product manager, plus equity.

Notice that the young woman is not a techie, so her salary isn’t pay for (supposedly) hard to find programming skills.

Granted I’m no longer in the front lines of hiring, but I’m still going to stick my neck out and say that no new grad is worth that kind of money—not even programmers.


Because there is so much more to working than what was learned in class. Stuff like

  • you may not know as much as you think, let alone everything;
  • experience matters;
  • understanding that while screwing up your own work is bad it can wreck the project and damage not just your team, but even the company;
  • not only being present, but also productive five days a week, 12 months a year;
  • being engaged every day all day—no cramming just before evaluations;
  • no spring or winter break or summer vacation (it’s a different rhythm); and
  • many other mundane things

In other words, it’s a different world, with different rules and different measures.

Further, new research is showing that entitlement kills innovation and for a new grad to believe they are worth a six figure salary plus equity compensation package is definitely entitlement.

I’m not saying that they aren’t assets or that they won’t contribute significantly, just that it wouldn’t hurt if they proved themselves first.

Can you imagine the impact on their productivity and creativity if their annual raise is meager, let alone justifying that salary if they change jobs?

There is a world of difference in the skills of someone with one year of experience, let alone five or more.

The problem is that by the time that truth is learned they are no longer entry level.

Flickr image credit: Jeff Wilcox

Entrepreneurs: How to Kill Innovation

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

Entitlement is a hallmark of many Millennials, but if you have a startup entitlement can literally kill it, as it has done many times.

A first-hand example is provided in Battling Entitlement, the Innovation Killer.

The belief that one is special and therefore is entitled to special treatment is rampant these days from those who feel they deserve more to join—more stock, more money, more title—to the frequent epidemics of founder ego that sweep across startup land.

But what about the not so obvious, such as a lack of accountability and favoritism?

Both are forms of entitlement that kill initiative, which, in turn, kills innovation right along with productivity, engagement, loyalty and a host of other desirable attitudes and actions.

Many younger employees are entering the workplace with no real understanding of accountability and many older employees have worked for managers who don’t enforce viable accountability in their organizations.

Accountability requires consequences and consequences need to be implemented evenly across the entire organization, with the only exceptions being made publicly and whose basis is obvious and acceptable to the rest of the team, e.g., serious illness, death, etc.

Founders and managers who claim to have no time to spare for accountability and use termination as a solution exacerbate the problem.

Bosses, whether entrepreneurs or not, have a responsibility to both their company and their people—enforcing accountability while stamping out entitlement is a big piece of it.

Image credit: Warning Sign Generator

Ducks in a Row: What People Want

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

Does promotion cause deafness? Is that why it’s so difficult for bosses to hear?

Does it erase memory, so that new bosses forget the desires and aspirations of their pre-boss days?

These questions aren’t meant as a joke; decades of studies and surveys indicate there is some basis in fact.

How else do you explain findings such as these,

  • Eighty percent of respondents who reported a good employee-supervisor relationship claim that the most important thing a boss can do to create a positive working relationship is to both solicit and value their input.
  • Among respondents who claimed to have a poor relationship with their boss, 42 percent stated that one of the top reasons the relationship was strained was due to their boss’ failure to listen or take their input into account.
  • Of the managers surveyed, less than 25 percent identified soliciting input as an area in which they wanted to improve.

What many bosses don’t get is that this desire isn’t a demand driven by ego, entitlement or insecurity.

It is simply a display of intellectual self-worth on the part of employees and what they are looking for is an affirmation of the boss’ trust, belief and reason for hiring them.

I got it, maybe because I felt the same way, and focusing on that desire put me in the top 10% of MRI recruiters for 12 years.

Think about it; if the people on your team aren’t capable enough to comment intelligently and offer viable input why in the world did you hire them?

Flickr image credit: zedbee

Entrepreneur: UNentitled

Thursday, April 14th, 2011


Longtime readers are familiar with my thoughts (rants?) on the prevalence of the entitled mentality in Millennials and its spread to other generations, including the older ones that should know better by now. (If you missed them search “entitled.”)

With that in mind, you’ll understand why a blog post entitled Entitlement vs. Entrepreneurship caught my eye.

The best and possibly only cure for this mentality is to start your own business. You quickly realize that the world doesn’t guarantee you a desk, computer, bad coffee, and a base salary. As an entrepreneur, you don’t start with a golden egg, you go and create it. It’s hard to feel entitled when you don’t have anything.

If the entitled mindset really does change as a result of the Great Recession it might be enough to consider it a silver lining, albeit a sheer one.

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/arvindgrover/3219533760/

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